Michigan attorney general files criminal charges in pot for votes scandal
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and Secretary of State Ruth Johnson announced Monday they had filed charges against the owner of a Lansing medical marijuana dispensary who allegedly offered free pot for registering to vote.
Skekina Pena, owner of Your Healthy Choice Clinic, was arraigned Monday at 54-A District Court for “influencing voters with Money or other valuable consideration.” Pena was released on a personal bond of $3,500.
The scandal broke at the end of July, days before a Lansing City Council primary election. At that time, Pena posted a notice on her website explaining her goals for a voter registration drive:
Protect Your Access! Vote 2011:
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! I’m planning an event for the preliminary voting that will have shuttles to the polls! We have to amend our Lansing ordinance! May God bless our efforts!
The webpage then encourages readers to support Lansing City Council candidates Derrick Quinney, A’Lynne Robinson and Harold Leeman. It also encourages readers to vote against City Council candidates Carol Wood and Jody Washington.
In an interview with Michigan Messenger in July, Pena denied she was offering the medibles or marijuana in exchange for specific votes.
“If they fill [the voter registration form] out, we are offering a compensation of a discount on their purchases that day,” Pena told Michigan Messenger. “That’s it. To help out those who wasted their gas to come in here.”
The dispensary is located on Michigan Avenue, six blocks from the state Capitol.
The case allowed Schuette, who ran the campaign opposing legalization of medical marijuana in 2008, the opportunity to go after the medication and its suppliers again. Schuette has been involved in court actions to weaken the law and protections they provide.
In a press release, he had this to say:
“Voters did not intend for marijuana to be handed out as a door prize, especially when it undermines the integrity of our elections process,” said Schuette. “Secretary of State Johnson and I will work to ensure that Michigan election law is followed.”
Johnson, had this to say:
“Integrity in elections is sacred to democracy,” said Johnson, who has made election reform a top priority for the Michigan Department of State. “The intent of their actions was clear – they offered their customers marijuana in exchange for voter registration. They also supplied a slate of their preferred candidates. This goes beyond election shenanigans. They should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Michigan Election Law prohibits the provision of anything of value in order to induce or influence the manner of voting (MCL 168.931(1)(a)). Such violations are misdemeanors punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or a $500 fine.
Corporate greed and individual bigotry have accelerated us towards a situation where all the usual peaceful and democratic methods needed to reverse the acute damage done by prohibition no longer function as envisaged by the Founding Fathers of our once great and free nation. Such a political impasse coupled with great economic tribulation is precisely that which throughout history has invariably ignited violent revolution.
In order to avert what will surely be a far more violent situation than we are all presently experiencing, there appears to be just one last avenue left to us – Jury Nullification.
Jury Nullification is a constitutional doctrine that allows juries to acquit defendants who are technically guilty, but who don’t deserve punishment. All non-violent drug offenders, be they users, dealers or importers, fall into this category. If you believe that prohibition is a dangerous and counter-productive policy, then you don’t have to help to apply it. Under the Constitution, when it comes to acquittals, you, the juror, have the last word!
The idea that jurors should judge the law, as well as the facts, is a proud and vital component of American history.
The most shining example of Jury Nullification occurred during the shameful period in US history when slavery was legal. People who helped slaves escape were committing a federal crime – violation of the Fugitive Slave Act. Jurors would often acquit, even when the defendants admitted their guilt. Legal historians credit these cases with advancing the abolition of slavery.
No amount of money, police powers, weaponry, wishful thinking or pseudo-science will make our streets safer; only an end to prohibition can do that. How much longer are you willing to foolishly risk your own survival by continuing to ignore the obvious, historically confirmed solution? – When called for Jury Service concerning any non-violent prohibition-related offense, it is your moral and civic duty to VOTE TO ACQUIT!