Is a Marijuana Dispensary’s Voting Incentive an Illegal Bribe?

There is an article on the CBC website today about an effort by a Vancouver marijuana dispensary to encourage people to vote: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/snoop-dogg-concert-free-pot-offered-as-voting-incentives-1.3243172

The CBC reports that in an effort to provide an incentive for people to vote, the Eden Medicinal Society is offering two prizes:

  • Society members who can prove they voted on election day can enter to win the chance to be a judge at a cannabis competition; and
  • Non-members who prove they voted are eligible to win a ticket to the event.

While efforts to encourage people to vote are to be commended, there is a high risk that offering of incentives such as this will contravene the Elections Act (Canada). If they are in contravention of the Election Act, there may be legal consequences for both the Eden Medicinal Society, and anyone who takes up their offer.

Section 481(1) of the Election Act makes it an offence to offer a bribe during an election period to induce an elector to vote (or refrain from voting). Accepting such a bribe is an offence under section 481(2).

The voting incentive described in the article offers electors with some valuable consideration (an entry in a contest to win a prize) in an effort to get them to vote. They are saying that if you vote, we will give you an entry into a contest.

In my view this is a clear contravention of section 481(1). I do not think it matters that all they are offering is a chance to win a prize, as opposed to a prize. There is still an offer of valuable consideration being made to encourage people to vote.

I should note that I am implying from the article that the contest is only open to those who vote. If the contest was open to everyone, regardless of whether or not they voted, my views would be different.

I believe voting should be encouraged, but there is a good (and, I trust, self-evident) reason that the Election Act prohibits bribes (or more subtly, “incentives”).

If the Eden Medicinal Society wants to encourage people to vote, it can (and should) do so without this incentive plan, well-intentioned as it may be.

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