With nearly one-third of U.S. adults now fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to the most recent data from the CDC, and the number of daily doses being given now headed down, many health officials across the country have turned their attention to those hesitant to get the shot. Some mass vaccination clinics have begun to close, and smaller sites at some unusual locations including strip clubs and crawfish festivals are popping up to take their place.
People leery of getting the vaccine are also being offered incentives to roll up their sleeves, including cash, savings bonds and even booze. And one of the earliest perks announced, getting free marijuana with a Covid-19 vaccine, is proving to be popular with cannabis enthusiasts across the country.
D.C. Marijuana Justice (DCMJ), a cannabis policy reform group in the nation’s capital, announced in early January that it would launch its “Joints for Jabs” campaign to reward those who received an inoculation when public vaccination sites began to open in Washington, D.C. And with the campaign now in full swing, DCMJ co-founder Adam Eidinger says that the group has distributed more than 10,000 free joints at multiple events held outside vaccination sites. The giveaways have been a hit with cannabis fans, passersby and even those administering the vaccinations.
“When the workers inside [one site] heard that we were out there giving away joints,” he remembers in a phone interview, “they started telling the recipients of the shot, 'Oh, go outside and get a free joint.’” For some people, the offer of a perk is all that is needed to tip the scales in favor of getting the vaccine. “I met someone who actually was not vaccinated but said they would go do it the same day,” Eidinger says, “and managed to get the vaccination the same day, then came back and got the joint.”
NYC Activists Roll Out Their Own Marijuana Giveaway
When fellow cannabis activists in New York caught a whiff of the buzz the DCMJ giveaways were causing, Eidinger says he joined forces with sister-group NYMJ to plan simultaneous events for the 420 high holiday on April 20. “On 420, the same day that we did our big giveaway at about 35 locations in D.C., they set up in Union Square in New York and gave away about 4,000 joints,” Eidinger says.
All those joints were rolled by volunteers, with a safety protocol that included gloves, masks, and absolutely no licking of rolling papers. But the five pounds of pot collected from growers was more than the volunteers could handle in time for the event, leaving them with more joints to roll after 420.
But for decades in New York, activists have also celebrated the herb on the first Saturday of May with the NYC Cannabis Parade, giving them another chance to distribute the free weed. Eidinger says when he heard the plans, he decided to drive up and join the festivities.
“When I heard they were doing it again, we brought our 51-foot inflatable joint that says ‘Biden, come on, man!’ and also says ‘Legalize, Liberate, Expunge,’ up to New York and we marched” with NYMJ and other activist groups including ACT UP and New York NORML.
Currently, DCMJ is holding events as they can, but they’ve run into supply problems. Eidinger says that all the marijuana they’ve given away has been donated by home growers, noting that regulations make it difficult for licensed businesses to donate cannabis. “If we had more joints, we could do this every day with volunteers,” he says, “but we just don't have the weed.”
Cannabis Dispensaries Offering Perks
Some regulated cannabis companies have found a way to offer incentives of free marijuana for being vaccinated against Covid-19. In Arizona, The Mint dispensaries were giving customers who presented their Covid-19 vaccination card at one of their three locations a free marijuana edible. And at Greenhouse of Walled Lake in Michigan, customers who have been vaccinated can get a free marijuana pre-rolled joint.
Greenhouse owner and CEO Jerry Millen said in an interview that he hoped to avoid the controversy surrounding the vaccine in some circles and didn’t want to appear to be making a political statement. He says that he respects those who decide not to get the shot, while wanting to reward those who do. “So, you get a free pre-roll if you got the vaccine,” Millen says. “And if you don't, that's your choice, because this is America.”
He says that the campaign has received an “overwhelming response,” saying “it blew up bigger than I ever thought it would. We've given away 25,000 joints so far. And with the slow rollout of the vaccine, we just kept extending it.” With the help of UBaked, a Michigan licensed cannabis cultivator and manufacturer that is producing the joints, Greenhouse of Walled Lake plans to continue to give away free cannabis to those getting a Covid-19 vaccine at least through the end of May. However, Millen wants people to look at the campaign as a reward rather than an attempt to change anyone’s mind.
“I hope people make the choice because they feel it's the right thing to do and I would hope no one would go get a shot just to get a pre-roll,” he says.