Businesses all over the nation are offering up incentives to encourage people to get their coronavirus vaccinations. Krispy Kreme donuts, for instance, says you can get a free glazed doughnut just for showing your vaccination card. Some employers, like Petco, Aldi, Trader Joe’s, Public, and Instacart are offering cash or store credit for getting their shots. And in some places, you can even score free weed for getting vaccinated. 

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Pot for Shots

A Michigan dispensary, The Greenhouse of Walled Lake started up a program called “Pot for Shots.” As a thank you for getting the vaccination, anyone 21 or older with a valid medical marijuana card can get a free pre-rolled joint from UBaked. That’s thanks to a partnership between the Greenhouse and UBaked, a company that just started up production in 2019 and now says it focuses on environmental sustainability.

All you have to do is show proof that you got your dose; no other purchase was required. That program was originally set to run January 22nd through February 28th, but the Greenhouse extended it through March 31st. And, for anyone trying to play the system, the company did warn customers it’s limiting the free joint to one per person. “We're all hoping that the Covid vaccine is the beginning of the end for this pandemic that has taken such a toll on our neighbors, our communities and our nation,” the company said on Instagram.

“If you choose to get the Covid vaccine (we always support the freedom of choice 🇺🇲🇺🇲) this is our way of saying "thank you" for helping to end this pandemic and getting us back to normal. Other companies have followed suit. In Arizona, The Mint Dispensary said anyone with a valid COVID-19 vaccination card proving at least one dose could get a free edible, no purchase necessary. That applies only to people 21 and older but is available to anyone, not just medical marijuana users. The Mint has three locations in Arizona: Tempe, which opened up recently, plus Mesa and Phoenix. The promotion extends through the month of March.

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Joints for Jabs

In the nation’s capital, DC Marijuana Justice started up a campaign it’s dubbed Joints for Jabs. The group plans to wait at vaccination sites and hand out free gift ganja gift baggies.  “We are looking for ways to safely celebrate the end of the pandemic and we know nothing brings people together like cannabis,” said DCMJ co-founder Nikolas Schiller.

“DCMJ believes that cannabis should be consumed safely and responsibly, and the pandemic has made this incredibly difficult for many adults to share their homegrown cannabis. When enough adults are inoculated with the coronavirus vaccine, it will be time to celebrate – not just the end of the pandemic, but the beginning of the end of cannabis prohibition in the United States.”

The bags will have home-grown cannabis that was raised without the use of pesticides or synthetic fertilizers, the organization promised. DCMJ alleges that a patchwork of state laws, coupled with federal laws making cannabis illegal at the nationwide level, has led millions to get their weed from the black market. Although dispensaries have been considered essential businesses, the pandemic has still had an impact on the industry.

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Thus, the Joints for Jabs program will only use cannabis that the people giving it out can vouch for. Along with the free weed, the baggy will contain a cheat sheet with phone numbers with council members for each DC district. That campaign will start up sometime in the Spring. The co-founder of DCMJ, Adam Eidinger, is also excited about the idea. “I want people to get the shots and to know they are appreciated for doing so,” Eidinger told Vice News. 

“We also see the vaccination center as a place for education and outreach as well as to mobilize people to let lawmakers know they want to protect and even expand home grow rights in the District and to allow adults to buy and sell cannabis. We want to end the intense policing of Black communities too as it’s completely connected to marijuana enforcement to this day. Oklahoma’s got its own Pot for Shots campaign.

The owner of Bud’s Craft Cannabis in McAlester, Oklahoma, says anyone who brings a valid medical marijuana license from the state of Oklahoma and presents written documentation that they got the vaccine can get a pre-rolled joint for one penny. The pre-rolls are specifically from the King Tut strain, and with their normal price sitting at about $10, that’s a 99.9% discount. 

Concerns Over the Practice

There have been concerns that handing out joints or other products that can be immediately consumed on-site could encourage people to violate various laws by smoking or eating their free cannabis the moment it’s handed to them. So far, there’s been no record of any trouble with that, but certain organizations, such as the DCJM, have explicitly stated that their gift should not be abused and should be consumed only within legal bounds.

The New York Times notes that experts who study behavioral motivation feel that offering incentives is not as cost-efficient or even effective way to increase the number of people getting a vaccine. More likely, people who were going to get it anyway will simply cash in on the free offer. Even still, it does get buzz around about excitement over the vaccine, rather than focusing on the fears people have about it. Additionally, it serves as advertising for the companies offering those promotions.

A recent study showed cannabis consumption might reduce the risk of dying from the coronavirus. The study shows Sativa lines have anti-inflammatory effects. It also inhibits certain molecules that “are currently considered to be the main actionable targets in COVID-19 cytokine storm and ARDS pathogenesis,” the study says.

It continues, “In the future, anti-TNFα and anti-IL-6 extracts need to be analyzed for their potential to mitigate inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, and other rheumatologic conditions, especially given the fact that extracts profoundly downregulate the RA pathway and target TNFα and IL-6. Also, the effects of novel extracts also need to be analyzed for their potential to combat ‘inflammaging’  - the inflammatory underpinning of aging and frailty.”