Voter turnout and voter registration in the United States is historically low. In 2008, the most recent Census statistics available, about 71 percent of voting-age citizens were registered to vote. One Lansing, Mich., medical marijuana dispensary has found itself in hot water for offering an unconventional benefit for voter registration.
Your Healthy Choice Clinic’s offer
A legal medical marijuana dispensary in Lansing, Mich., Your Healthy Choice Clinic, has raised the ire of elections officials. The dispensary posted a note on its website:
Vote for us and we’ll vote for you. All dispensaries are doing a voter registration drive. If you sign up at Your Healthy Choice, we will assist you in filling out the registration form and will mail it out for you. We believe in power in numbers and everyone taking a stand. So in appreciation, we will reward legal patients with a .5 gram free or a free medible!
In that same posting on the website, the dispensary outlines which city council candidates the shop supports and which candidates it does not support.
The problem with pot for voter registration
When authorities were alerted to the free-pot-for-voter-registration offer, they opened an investigation. The state attorney general has indicated he is investigating the legal line between voting inducement and registration. State senators have asked the attorney general to consider this case “very carefully.” The problem is not that the medical dispensary is offering an inducement (worth about $6 to $8) for registering to vote. The question is if the dispensary is, in fact, offering an inducement for people to vote one direction or another. Michigan law specifically outlines:
(a) A person shall not, either directly or indirectly, give, lend, or promise valuable consideration, to or for any person, as an inducement to influence the manner of voting by a person relative to a candidate or ballot question, or as a reward for refraining from voting.
(b) A person shall not, either before, on, or after an election, for the person’s own benefit or on behalf of any other person, receive, agree, or contract for valuable consideration for 1 or more of the following:
(i) Voting or agreeing to vote, or inducing or attempting to induce another to vote, at an election.
(ii) Refraining or agreeing to refrain, or inducing or attempting to induce another to refrain, from voting at an election.
What this could mean for the dispensary
The Your Healthy Choice Clinic and its owners could face criminal charges if they are found to have offered an inducement to individuals for voting one direction or the other. In Michigan, it is a misdemeanor crime to do so. The owners of the shop could be arrested and fined. The attorney general of Michigan could also rescind the license of the dispensary to do business.
Chicago Tribune http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-ap-mi-freemarijuana-vot,0,297041.story
Michigan Messenger http://michiganmessenger.com/51246/state-and-local-officials-respond-to-pot-for-votes-scandal-in-lansing
Michigan Law http://www.legislature.mi.gov/%28S%28x5zqabibtastnqzhj2f2j32q%29%29/mileg.aspx?page=getObject&objectName=mcl-168-931
U.S. Census Voter Report (PDF) http://www.census.gov/prod/2010pubs/p20-562.pdf
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