San Jose Gives Out Free Weed to Voters with Medical Marijuana Cards, And No One's Quite Sure if it's Legal

In an effort to encourage California residents to cast ballots in the state primary elections next week, certain pot clubs in San Jose will be giving voters free weed, as long as they have a medical marijuana card, and can prove that they've voted with a ballot stub or an "I Voted" sticker. The effort, "Weed for Votes," has been organized by the Silicon Valley Cannabis Coalition, in the hopes of getting some pot-friendly politicians elected. Sound dubiously legal? It might be.

In total, there are about 80 pot clubs in San Jose, and roughly half of those are part of the collective. Throughout the city, many of these will offer discounts and free marijuana for members who vote in the state primary on June 3rd. Just show up at participating pot club (a complete list of which will be publicized a day before, on Monday June 2nd) with your medical marijuana card and proof that you cast a ballot, and you'll get some sweet mary-jane for completing your civic duty. Need more incentive? The coalition has even put together a "cannabis friendly voter guide," with recommendations such as Dave Cortese for mayor.

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

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As appealing as "Weed for Votes" sounds, it definitely feels like it's walking a fine legal line — and no one seems to be too sure where it's landing. One spokesman for San Jose told Reuters that the offer was "illegal under federal law": the law "bars inducing voters to register or vote in elections that include a federal contest." District Attorney Jeff Rosen's office told San Jose Mercury News, though, that the offer alone doesn't seem to violate any state law, it all depends on how the weed-giving is actually done.

It all comes down to California's electoral laws, which are somewhat murky when it comes to inducing votes. The state "allows voters to receive incentives for voting, so long as the incentives are not offered to induce a voter not to vote, or to vote, or to refrain from voting for a particular candidate or ballot measure, and so long as no federal candidates are on the ballot," writes Richard L. Hasen in Vote Buying.

So does encouraging residents to cast their ballots for certain weed-friendly politicians count? While the effort's name would suggest some sort of quid pro quo, in fact, there's nothing to suggest that the members are being rewarded for voting a particular way — they're just being given some incentive to vote, period.