Joints for Jabs and One Cent Products for Vaxxed Customers: Will It Work?

Soft Secrets
11 Jun 2021

From Washington state to Arizona and California, people can get some free pot upon showing proof of vaccination, but how has this been managed (or in some cases mismanaged)? 

There has been some excitement in the recent weeks that the cannabis community gets included in efforts to stimulate more people to receive their COVID-19 jabs. From Washington state to Arizona and California, people can get some free pot upon showing proof of vaccination, but how has this been managed (or in some cases mismanaged)? 

Well, in case you are growing your own, you don't have to run for free pot, but still — who would say 'no' to some free stuff? The most noise in the news made Washington state, where authorities have encouraged licensed marijuana stores to offer free joints to promote on-site COVID-19 vaccine clinics. 

The 'Joints for Jabs' effort in Washington took a rough start, however. The state's Liquor and Cannabis Board allowed licensed adult-use marijuana retail shops to give away a single pre-rolled joint to anyone who's over 21 and gets vaxxed at an on-site clinic by July 12. But the cannabis retailers would not get the same treatment as breweries, wineries and restaurants, where people can get some free drinks in exchange for vaccination proof.  

Unlike cannabis establishments, alcohol-serving ones were not required to host an on-site clinic to give out products. The board has also required cannabis retailers to supply joints intended for the give-away from licensed producers or processors and keep a record of each item. Only a few of the state's legal pot shops have agreed to participate, even though perhaps more were willing to do so. 

According to news reports, retailers told the state Liquor and Cannabis Board during a Wednesday (June 9) meeting that many don't have the space to accommodate a vaccine clinic. On the other hand, some health care providers are uneasy about setting up a clinic on a site where marijuana is sold.  An obvious complaint among pot retailers was that they have to have an onsite clinic while the state allows alcohol-serving establishments to give away free drinks to customers who show vaccination proof without needing to host a clinic on the spot. While a cannabis retailer in Arizona offered free vaccines along with free joints and edibles earlier this month, no other state seems to have introduced a similar 'joints for jabs' program such as Washington. 

During the meeting, Board chair David Postman reportedly told retailers it was a member of the business group who late last May proposed the program, which he and Gov. Jay Inslee’s office thought was a great idea. The requirement that the pot retailers host onsite vaccination clinics was reportedly motivated by the fact that people aren't allowed to consume marijuana at licensed retailers, unlike alcohol at a brewery or winery. The program was designed as such to prevent people from showing their vaccine cards at multiple pot-selling locations, then taking a lot of free joints that might end up in the hands of young people, Postman suggested. 

Postman also said that while cannabis stores were required to host a vaccine clinic on-site, they were exempt from tax on the product they give away, unlike alcohol-serving establishments. “I guess I just beg for a little understanding,” Postman said. “If it’s not the right thing, then that’ll be too bad, because I think we all need to get as many people vaccinated as possible.”

Daniela Bernhard, the co-owner of Uncle Ike’s cannabis shop in Seattle, told the board the industry is excited to be included in efforts to boost vaccination but “disappointed that our legal and heavily regulated sector continues to be treated differently than our peer sectors in Washington.” “If we are trusting adults driving with their vaccination cards to get a pint of beer and then responsibly get to their next destination, we can also trust that adults will pick up a joint and enjoy it later in a legal setting,” Bernhard said.

Bernhard said Uncle Ike’s efforts to host a vaccine clinic had been twice rejected by different health care providers, though she did not identify which those providers were. Another health care provider, the Spokane Regional Health District, had not yet been approached by any licensed adult-use cannabis retailer for a collaboration, but it had an answer ready. “We would not be able to provide vaccine because of concerns about federal funding,” said spokeswoman Kelli Hawkins.

The state of Washington has organized some other incentives, too. If you are not going to get some free pot for a vaccine shot this time — if you live there, you can still win a free sports ticket or even a lucrative lottery money prize of up to $1 million. One of the milestones is that 70% of those over 16 receive at least a first vaccine dose until the end of June so that Gov. Jay Inslee can lift all COVID-19 related restrictions by the end of the month.

In California, some cannabis retailers have taken on a different approach. Earlier in June, a Richmond-based medical cannabis company announced it would offer select products for the price of one cent when customers show their valid COVID-19 vaccination card. Behind the effort is the 7 Stars Holistic Healing Center, from where people can also make online orders and have curbside picking. The one-cent promotion is an effort to help Contra Costa County, and it's accessible to anyone who has received at least one vaccine shot. 

7 Stars has said it hopes to help the county reach underserved areas that may not have equitable access to the vaccine. To do that, 7 Stars has applied through the California Department of Public Health to be a mobile COVID-19 vaccination site.

“We wanted to offer our platform to help the state achieve their goal of immunity against COVID-19,” 7 Stars Executive Director Zee Handoush said in a statement. “We saw other local businesses offering vaccine incentives and we wanted to add cannabis to that growing list. We hope other members of the cannabis community will do the same.”

Residents who have received at least one dose of vaccine can visit 7 Stars at 3219 Pierce St. in Richmond and get their one-cent cannabis product deal.

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