San Jose Dispensaries Offering Free Marijuana for Voters

Several Silicon Valley cannabis clubs to offer free weed to those who can prove they voted

Free marijuana is the reward in store for certain voters on Tuesday in San Jose's municipal election, as nearly a dozen pot clubs will be passing out free weed to their members Tuesday.

San Jose is in the process of choosing a new mayor -- and also passing new, more-restrictive rules on medical marijuana. A proposal the City Council is still considering would zone dispensaries out of business, weed supporters say -- so Tuesday's election is important. Half of the City Council's 10 seats are at stake.

Select Silicon Valley medical marijuana dispensaries will give free discounted and in some cases free marijuana to voters with medical cannabis recommendations on Tuesday.

"A lot of people don't know about the primary elections," said Dave Hodges of the Silicon Valley Cannabis Coalition. "We have some important races including the mayoral race, and we want to make sure politicians know the power of our voters."

To exchange "Weed for Votes," all voters will need to do is present their "I Voted" sticker or their ballot stub to clubs listed in an announcement to be released Monday. 

But this offer may have less to do with election day and more with rallying marijuana supporters to show up at San Jose City Hall Tuesday. The council is set to vote on a marijuana ordinance that would cut the number of dispensaries from 100 to 20, as well as limit hours of operation and places where the dispensaries could set up shop.

The June 3 ballot doesn't contain any marijuana-specific items, but activists have created a cannabis friendly voter guide.

With so many vacant seats at San Jose City Hall, the Cannabis Coalition feels this is its chance to get the right people in, Hodges said.

The city, though, says U.S. election code forbids giving something away in exchange for voting if there is a federal race or issue on the ballot. The congressional race between Mike Honda and Ro Khanna suggests the free weed might be illegal.

“There may be federal issues, but there’s also federal issues providing cannabis,” Hodges said. “It’s one of those gray areas.”

Cannabis club member James McKinney said the idea is motivating him to vote.

Critics are questioning the ethics and legality of the campaign.

The Santa Clara County district attorney’s office said released a statement Monday: "Because there are candidates for federal office on the ballot, the offer may violate 18 U.S. Code Section 597.  And depending on how the offer is administered, it may violate California law."

It’s not clear whether the office will act on this information.

Over and over again, voters have said yes to medical marijuana when it has shown up on the ballot. It passed overwhelmingly in 2010.

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