Free marijuana in exchange for registering to vote? This is exactly what a Lansing, Michigan, clinic has been offering patients for the past month. Patrons who registered to vote in a local city council election were offered free pot -- a curious move that has caught the attention of lawmakers and media, alike. WLNS-TV has an intriguing report that explores the legalities surrounding the controversial scenario:
Lansing's Your Healthy Choice Clinic had been publicizing the "deal" on its web site, though the advertisement appears to have been removed. The prize for completing a voter registration form? A half gram of marijuana or an edible marijuana product.
Medicinal marijuana supporters, like other advocates, seek to lobby government officials, while gaining public support, to ensure that regulations remain friendly to their needs. This situation seems to illustrate an attempt at local advocacy and mobilization.
Supporters scored a major victory when Michigan legalized the drug to treat certain health problems back in 2008. Following this action, local communities adopted various rules and regulations to further monitor the use and distribution of the drug.
For instance, earlier this month the Lansing City Council has approved a cap on dispensaries that lay within city limits. Additionally, application fees of $1,000 have been adopted. It is these restrictions, among others, that proponents seek to limit, which is why the clinic is encouraging patients to vote for pro-marijuana city council candidates.
Some, like Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette (R), though, believe that the clinic's free marijuana campaign is wrong-headed. In a statement released by his office, he says:
"It was not the intent of the citizens to allow for shenanigans like this. Citizens were told this was a way to help seriously ill people, yet here again is an example of the law being exploited by those with their own agenda."
According to StateNews.com, state Sen. Rick Jones, also a Republican, joins Schuette in his opposition to the clinic's actions. Earlier this week, he commented on the matter, stating the following:
“I don’t think it’s appropriate to offer any enticement to vote for or against elected officials of any kind, whether they be local, state or federal,” he said. “I would say the same thing (about anything) — it would be inappropriate if somebody offered a beer.”
While the free marijuana (or medible, which is a name given to an edible version of the drug) is no longer offered on the site, the list of candidates still remains:
The owner of the clinic, Shekina Pena, who is advocating for pro-medicinal marijuana candidates, has defended her actions. Since the drug was not given in exchange for actual votes, she believes that what the clinic has been doing is appropriate. According to WLNS, she says:
"We can tell them a little bit of information on what we have on there. Or we can refer them to their websites, because a lot of them have come in and dropped off the information. And we just kind of push it to the patients, and let them decide, it's on them."
It may be "on them," but the perception that people who don't normally vote are being enticed to do so with such a controversial incentive is certainly not sitting well with some lawmakers.