Lansing marijuana give-away brings election law criminal charges

A Lansing medical marijuana dispensary owner who advertised free products to patients for registering to vote has been charged with breaking state election law. Shekina Pena, who owns Your Healthy Choice Clinic, faces a misdemeanor count of influencing voters with money or other valuable consideration. The charge, filed by state Attorney General Bill Schuette and Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, carries up to 90 days in jail. It stems from a July post on the dispensary’s website, offering patients who registered to vote a free half-gram of marijuana or a free edible marijuana product in return.

“Voters did not intend for marijuana to be handed out as a door prize, especially when it undermines the integrity of our elections process,” Schuette said in a statement today. Pena, 34, did not respond to messages seeking comment. John Sellek, a spokesman for Schuette, said Pena was notified Friday of the pending charge and turned herself in. Hers is the only one expected to be filed at this time, Sellek said.

The post at issue also referenced Lansing City Council candidates the dispensary supports, including incumbent councilmembers A’Lynne Robinson and Derrick Quinney, along with Harold Leeman, who did not advance in the 1st Ward primary race. Incumbent Councilwoman Carol Wood and 1st Ward candidate Jody Washington were listed as deserving of no votes. Both wanted more stringent regulations in a new Lansing ordinance governing medical marijuana dispensaries. The city’s policy was trumped by a Michigan Court of Appeals panel’s ruling last month that dispensaries are not allowed under the voter-approved 2008 law.

“The intent of their actions was clear — they offered their customers marijuana in exchange for voter registration,” Johnson said in a statement of Your Healthy Choice. “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.” Pena wrote on the dispensary’s Facebook page July 29 that Your Healthy Choice was participating in a voter registration drive along with other medical marijuana shops.

“Your Healthy Choice has not and will not compensate ANYONE to vote nor will we compensate ANYONE for voting for a particular candidate,” she wrote. “ANYONE who says or implies that we are compensating people for a vote is dishonest and shameless.” Your Healthy Choice no longer dispenses marijuana, according to its website. It remains open for patients to meet with physicians and find caregivers. Read Tuesday’s Lansing State Journal for more on this report.

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