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Officials react to pot for votes scandal in Michigan

Medical-MarijuanaDesign_2109.jpg
Medical-MarijuanaDesign_2109.jpg

Lansing City Clerk Chris Swope tells Michigan Messenger he has been investigating the allegations that a Lansing medical marijuana clinic, Your Healthy Choice Clinic, is offering inducements for votes — something that would violate state law.

Swope says it is not completely clear what the dispensary is offering a free 1/2 gram of pot or a free medible (edible product made with marijuana) for. On the one hand, the text of the website says the offer is for registering to vote, but the second half of the website posting indicates that voters should vote for and against certain candidates for the Lansing City Council.

The offer on the company’s website was removed late Wednesday afternoon.

Michigan Messenger broke the story Wednesday afternoon.

If it is determined the clinic is offering pot for votes, it could run afoul of [Michigan Election law](http://www.legislature.mi.gov/(S(wxppi5y0ieqsif55pjlqmi55))/mileg.aspx?page=getObject&objectName=mcl-168-931), which reads in part:

“(1) A person who violates 1 or more of the following subdivisions is guilty of a misdemeanor:

(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.

(iii) Doing anything prohibited by this act.

(iv) Both distributing absent voter ballot applications to voters and receiving signed applications from voters for delivery to the appropriate clerk or assistant of the clerk. This subparagraph does not apply to an authorized election official.”

Violation of the act is a msidemeanor.

Swope said ultimately the decision to prosecute rests on the shoulders of Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III.

Dunnings says he has no statement until and if law enforcement has completed an investigation and forwarded a warrant request to his office.

Swope said he is still considering referring the case to the prosecutor, but has not made a final decision.

Swope is not alone in conducting an investigation into the matter. Sources close to Ingham County Clerk Mike Bryanton say he has received a call from state officials directing him to conduct an investigation into the matter. Bryanton did not return calls seeking comment.

State Sen. Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge) is chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and a vocal opponent to what he has characterized as a poorly designed law for medical marijuana. On Wednesday, he put out a press statement about the pot for votes situation.

“Giving away free marijuana to influence voting is outrageous and must be stopped,” Jones said. “I will be working with the attorney general on whether additional legislation is needed.”

Swope says the whole situation is bothersome to him.

“Clearly we want people to register to vote,” Swope said, “but on the other hand, with this situation, especially with the way they are tying this a specific issue and for or against certain candidates, it is not what we want.”

Swope acknowledged that lots of organizations have been known to do voter registration drives offering hot dogs or other things for registering. Here, however, he notes the clinic is actually encouraging people to vote on a specific date as well as for or against certain candidates.

“Offering an enticement or pay to vote is not beneficial for our democracy,” Swope said. “Hopefully they will come to their senses and realize this is not the way to get people to vote.”

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