Trading vote registrations for pot
POSTED: Sunday, July 31, 2011 - 9:09am
UPDATED: Sunday, July 31, 2011 - 9:19am
NBC NEWS — Lansing, Michigan residents who register to vote could get free pot.
One medical marijuana shop in Lansing is using that incentive to entice its clients.
The clinic claims it's just doing its civic duty, but is it going too far?
"It wasn't ever to lure patients or try to buy their votes -- no, not at all," says Shekina Pena, the owner of "Your Healthy Choice Clinic".
For the past month and a half she and other dispensaries in the area have been running a voter registration campaign.
She says she's been educating patients and caregivers on the medical marijuana ordinance and who on city council supports it.
"We let them know how we feel, we don't tell them who to vote for," says Pena. "We definitely want to support the ones who are supporting us."
On the Site, the clinic offers half a gram or a free medible, which is one of their food products, as a thank you for registering.
Lansing City Clerk Chris Swope says the clinic is treading on a very fine line because the giveaway seems to be too closely tied to which candidates the clinic supports.
Their tag line on the site, "Vote for us and we'll vote for you."
"There are very clear prohibitions in the law about giving someone any type of consideration for voting or voting a certain way or you can't give someone an enticement for not voting," says Swope.
Swope says if the clinic gave people pot and explicitly told them who to vote for or who not to vote for then, without question, they'd be breaking the law, but Pena says that's not what the clinic is doing.
"We really got to fight to get the voters out there because the polls are showing there's 4-5,000 people in Lansing that are patients or caregivers so we need those 4-5,000 people to come forth to the polls and vote for whomever they feel is in support of what they want for access," she says. "It gets their attention and like the Medical Marijuana Acts says, you can't sell it so what's wrong with giving it away?"
Swope says this is not a clear cut issue, which his office will continue to investigate.
State Senator Rick Jones says he believes the clinic is using marijuana to influence voting and has contacted the attorney general's office to look into the issue.