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Monday, May 11, 2020

PAC Issues Binding Opinion on FOIA and Cannabis Applications

The Illinois Attorney General PAC Office just released its third binding opinion for 2020. In PAC Op. 2020-03 the PAC office found an Illinois agency in violation of FOIA for improperly redacting certain information contained in cannabis business license applications, although the PAC did acknowledge that the agency could properly redact birth dates under 7(1)(c) of FOIA.

A Chicago Tribune reporter filed a FOIA request with the Illinois Department of Agriculture requesting a copy of all applications for adult use cannabis cultivation center licenses. The Department provided copies of the applications but redacted certain information under 7(1)(a),7(1)(b), and 7(1)(c). Specifically, the Department explained that certain information was redacted because it was confidential under the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Program Act ("Medical Act") or was protected by personal privacy exemptions. The reporter appealed to the PAC.

The PAC first noted that the Medical Act does not apply to applications for adult use cannabis facilities, so the confidentiality provisions of that Act did not protect certain information from release to the public.  Instead, the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act applies to these applications, and that Act did not include the same confidentiality provisions as the Medical Act. As a result, the Department could not rely on the Medical Act to justify redaction of certain information in the applications. However, the PAC did agree with the Department that the birth dates of the principal officers and board members were properly redacted under 7(1)(c) as an invasion of privacy, finding no public interest in release of that "highly personal" information. 


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