Here’s One Way to Encourage Voting: Free Weed

San Jose marijuana club wants to turn out the vote.

Marijuana leaves. 
National Journal
Elahe Izadi
June 3, 2014, 7:21 a.m.

The priv­ilege of par­ti­cip­at­ing in a free, demo­crat­ic elec­tion should be reas­on enough to vote for most Amer­ic­ans. Get­ting free burri­tos or cof­fee for sport­ing “I Voted” stick­ers sweetens the deal. But San Jose is one-up­ping all of that with the prom­ise of weed for voters in Tues­day’s primary elec­tions.

Top that, Star­bucks.

The marijuana, for card-car­ry­ing med­ic­al marijuana users only, comes cour­tesy of the Sil­ic­on Val­ley Can­nabis Co­ali­tion as part of its “Weed for Votes” cam­paign. Just show up at par­ti­cip­at­ing can­nabis clubs with an “I Voted” stick­er or bal­lot stub to qual­i­fy for dis­coun­ted or free marijuana.

SVCC wants to en­cour­age voters to get out and cast votes for “can­nabis-friendly” can­did­ates run­ning for city of­fice, such as coun­cil mem­bers and the may­or. The sher­iff and state’s at­tor­ney are also on the bal­lot, and the group’s voter guide makes it clear who they want in of­fice.

No marijuana-spe­cif­ic meas­ure ap­pears on the bal­lot, but pro-can­nabis act­iv­ists want to mo­bil­ize their base to back can­did­ates who they feel take “reas­on­able” ap­proaches to marijuana policy. The city is in the middle of con­sid­er­ing in­creas­ing reg­u­la­tions on med­ic­al marijuana.

“We have a huge op­por­tun­ity to make a large im­pact in who runs San Jose,” SVCC dir­ect­or John Lee said in a state­ment. “Al­though we may not have reg­u­la­tions on the June bal­lot, in­sur­ing the right politi­cians are elec­ted is even more im­port­ant.”

The polit­ic­al im­pact of play­ing up marijuana is something Demo­crats have been eye­ing as a way to help them in a midterm cycle, when they typ­ic­ally struggle to get their base out to vote. Some polling sug­gests that marijuana bal­lot ini­ti­at­ives will help boost turnout, par­tic­u­larly among young­er voters. Take Col­or­ado or Wash­ing­ton, where turnout among 18- to 29-year-olds spiked in 2012 when pot-leg­al­iz­a­tion ap­peared on the bal­lot. But that didn’t hap­pen in Cali­for­nia; youth turnout as a share of the elect­or­ate ac­tu­ally dropped in 2010, when a marijuana leg­al­iz­a­tion meas­ure ap­peared on the bal­lot.

But is San Jose’s pot giveaway even leg­al? Well, the marijuana is only for those who already have med­ic­al marijuana cards. And the Santa Clara County Dis­trict At­tor­ney’s Of­fice has said in a state­ment that the of­fer on its face doesn’t ap­pear to vi­ol­ate Cali­for­nia’s vote-buy­ing law, which bans try­ing to in­flu­ence voters with the prom­ise of things like free money, gifts, and em­ploy­ment. But, de­pend­ing on how the of­fer plays out, it could still vi­ol­ate state or even fed­er­al law, es­pe­cially since there are fed­er­al can­did­ates on the bal­lot.

The num­ber of small and large busi­nesses and cor­por­a­tions who of­fer free­bies to voters on Elec­tion Day has boomed in re­cent pres­id­en­tial cycles. Those giveaways do ap­pear to vi­ol­ate fed­er­al elec­tion law.

One easy way to avoid get­ting in­to leg­al troubles is to give the free stuff to all people, re­gard­less of wheth­er they voted. Al­though just giv­ing away pot to every­body who has a med­ic­al-marijuana card in San Jose would surely pose plenty of prob­lems of its own. Like, sup­ply-and-de­mand-type prob­lems.

What We're Following See More »
SCOTUS Won’t Hear Appeal of Minimum-Wage Law
38 minutes ago

"The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected a sweeping constitutional challenge to Seattle’s minimum wage law, in what could have been a test case for future legal attacks on similar measures across the country. In a one-line order, the justices declined to hear a case by the International Franchise Association and a group of Seattle franchisees, which had said in court papers that the city’s gradual wage increase to $15 discriminates against them in a way that violates the Constitution’s commerce clause."

Sanders Looks to Right the Ship in Indiana
41 minutes ago

Hillary Clinton may have the Democratic nomination sewn up, but Bernie Sanders apparently isn't buying it. Buoyed by a poll showing them in a "virtual tie," Sanders is "holding three rallies on the final day before the state primary and hoping to pull off a win after a tough week of election losses and campaign layoffs." 

DC to Release Draft Constitution as Part of Statehood Push
1 hours ago

"The New Columbia Statehood Commission—composed of five District leaders including Mayor Muriel Bowser, D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, and D.C.'s congressional delegation—voted today to publicly release a draft of a new constitution for an eventual state next Friday, at the Lincoln Cottage." It's the first step in a statehood push this year that will include a constitutional convention in June and a referendum in November.

Will Ferrell Bails on Reagan Movie
1 hours ago

Amid outcry by President Reagan's children, actor Will Ferrell has pulled out of a movie that makes light of Reagan's Alzheimer's disease. A spokesperson for Ferrell said, “The ‘Reagan’ script is one of a number of scripts that had been submitted to Will Ferrell which he had considered. While it is by no means an ‘Alzheimer’s comedy’ as has been suggested, Mr. Ferrell is not pursuing this project."

How Many Surveillance Requests Did the U.S. Spy Court Reject Last Year?
1 hours ago

Zero, out of 1,457 requests by the National Security Agency and the FBI.