The campaign contributions came as momentum was building here to legalize recreational marijuana, a measure signed into law in June by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, whose second cousin, Joby Pritzker, is a board member of the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington.
That organization was credited by sponsors of the Illinois legislation as having helped write the bill. And the group was among those to contribute to the campaign fund of state Rep. Kelly Cassidy of Chicago, a co-sponsor who collected $13,000 in contributions tallied by the Tribune.
The law allows the 17 existing medical marijuana cultivators to be the first to grow recreational pot — a decision backers said was made in part because those companies have already been screened by the state.
The law allows for no more large cultivators to supply the Illinois market until 2021 at the earliest, and then only if demand warrants them. All existing medical marijuana dispensaries may apply to begin selling recreational pot Jan. 1, but the small circle of current cultivators already owns most of those outlets as well.
A new wave of dispensaries will be allowed to open as new licenses are awarded May 1, but those businesses too will only be allowed to get their supply from the same small group of current Illinois growers.