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Illinois marijuana growers who get first shot at the recreational market contributed heavily to politicians who cemented their advantage

Marijuana cultivating companies that persuaded Illinois lawmakers to give them first access to recreational customers pushed for the lucrative advantage with the backing of a steady flow of campaign cash, the Tribune has found.

The firms grow medical cannabis now, but are allowed to produce the first batches of recreational marijuana in preparation for the start of legal sales on Jan 1. And those companies, their executives and lobbyists can be linked to more than $630,000 in political giving just since January 2017, according to the Tribune review.

It’s a figure that includes more than $400,000 in campaign contributions to members of the Illinois General Assembly and their political organizations, including a lesser amount to some incumbent candidates who recently lost or retired.

In all, money went to 60 lawmakers with the ability to vote on the historic measure legalizing recreational pot, 45 of whom voted yes. Of those 45, all but six were Chicago-area Democrats. 

And more than $120,000 went to campaign and political funds tied to just one of those legislators, state Sen. Don Harmon of Oak Park, a main sponsor of the 2018 bill expanding medical marijuana in the state. [Read more at Chicago Tribune]

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