John Bacon

June 8, 2021

-USA Today


“Joints for Jabs” is officially a thing in Washington state.

The state’s Liquor and Cannabis Board said this week that it would allow state-licensed cannabis retailers to “provide one joint to adult consumers who receive COVID-19 vaccination at an in-store vaccination clinic.”

The program is the latest vaccination incentive in a state that just days ago reached its goal of at least vaccinating 70% of state adults. Gov. Jay Inslee has said reaching that mark will allow elimination of most remaining coronavirus-driven restrictions across the state.

The board said it received multiple requests from cannabis retail licensees to help promote the state vaccination efforts. The approval for what the board called “Joints for Jabs” is effective immediately and will expire July 12. Others are calling the plan “poke and toke.”

The fine print is sufficiently innocuous. Only one joint, no substituting other pot treats, only good for people 21 years of age and older. Advertising is allowed.

The idea isn’t new. In Arizona, the Mint Cannabis Dispensary partnered with a medical group to offer free, on-site vaccinations at its three Phoenix-area locations. Those who were vaccinated at the clinics and 21 years of age or older received a free pre-rolled joint and an edible cannabis gummy, an initiative the dispensary called “Snax for Vaxx.”

“So many states declared cannabis retailers and employees as essential early on in the pandemic,” New England-based cannabis brand and business consultant Ben Mervis told USA TODAY.  “This is a poetic opportunity for them to not only give back but to incentivize efforts to create safer, vaccinated communities.”

The Washington state board noted that it has provided dozens of allowances for alcohol and cannabis licensees throughout the pandemic in an effort to support businesses during the restriction period and to support the vaccine effort. It has already approved free beer, wine or cocktails for those vaccinated by June 30.

Last week, Inslee unveiled the “Shot of a Lifetime” campaign aimed at promoting vaccination in the state, which early in the pandemic was the primary U.S. hot spot for COVID-19 deaths. The Washington State Lottery will conduct a weekly drawing for $250,000 for four consecutive weeks and then a final drawing for $1 million.

The campaign also includes $1 million in incentives for students in the form of free tuition and other scholarships. And the state Department of Health is distributing $500,000 in gift cards through its Care-A-Van mobile vaccination drive.

Last week, President Joe Biden launched a major push toward his own goal of having 70% of American adults at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19 by July 4. Biden announced a multipronged effort aimed at reaching that marker, including plans to recruit 1,000 Black-owned barbershops and salons to provide “Shots at the Shop” and promote vaccinations nationwide.

Other elements of the campaign include free child care for parents who want to get vaccinated, keeping pharmacies open for 24 hours on Fridays and partnering with mayors to see which city can grow its vaccination rate the fastest. The NBA, NHL, MLB and NASCAR also plan to offer free vaccines at their competitions, while Anheuser-Busch announced free beer for vaccinated adults age 21 years and older on July 4.