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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) – The state lawmaker who sponsored Illinois’ medical marijuana law said it bars the release of information about those applying to grow and sell the drug to prevent the state officials who review the applications from being influenced by political connections.

State Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, said Friday that the law’s confidentiality clause also prevents companies from getting information about competitors that could give them an advantage, The Southern reported.

“The idea was to keep this not secret in the sense of lack of transparency, but secret to keep the process pure,” Lang said.

Government watchdog groups expressed concern that keeping applicant names secret would make it harder to determine if politically connected companies had received preferential treatment. Several companies hired lobbyists, including a former chief of staff to Gov. Pat Quinn and a former state police director, to help them through the process.

Lang said he understands the concerns, but that he thinks shielding the applicant names from open records requests was the better way to go. He also said he thinks the names will eventually come out in lawuits brought by companies that are passed over for licenses.

“There’s nothing in there that says that this stuff is not discoverable by a subpoena in a lawsuit,” Lang said. “Everyone is going to know eventually all the applicants, all the scoring and all of the everything.”

The application period opened Monday and lasts through Sept. 22. The state will issue 22 cultivation center licenses and 60 dispensary licenses.