July 29, 2011

Michican Dispensary Offers Free Weed for Voter Registration

Now here’s an unusual (and controversial) marketing practice: A medical marijuana dispensary in Lansing, Michigan, recently offered customers a half gram of free weed if they registered to vote.

Encouraging citizens to perform their civic duty is an honorable thing. In this case, though, there could be more at work. Your Healthy Choice Clinic posted the offer on its website ahead of an election for city council seats. The council recently voted to limit the number of dispensaries and charge a $1,000  application fee.

Given that backdrop, some city officials suggest Your Healthy Choice Clinic might have been trying to “buy” votes for city council candidates who are more sympathetic to the medical marijuana industry.

This is a very gray area. Lansing’s city clerk told a local TV station that the dispensary is treading in dangerous water, as the promotion appears “tied to which candidates the clinic supports.”

“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,” Swope said.

Others take issue with a tagline – “Vote for us and we’ll vote for you” – that appeared on the dispensary’s website alongside the promotion.

The dispensary’s owner, Shekina Pena, of course disagrees, saying that the business didn’t tell people who to vote for in the election. But the state’s attorney general is now looking into the issue, drawing unwanted attention to the industry.

Whether or not Your Healthy Choice Clinic crossed a line, the fact that it even ventured close to the boundary is discouraging. Medical marijuana dispensaries should go out of their way to avoid controversy, as the industry already has enough problems when it comes to public perception.

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