For the first few months of the COVID-19 vaccination campaign in the United States, things were looking up. It was hard to find an open slot anywhere for a vaccination because people were lining up and filling all the slots weeks in advance. Now, however, the vaccination rate has slowed to a crawl. States across the country are scrambling for ways to motivate their residents to get vaccinated as the country faces the very real threat of a variant of the virus causing another deadly wave.
It already has; the Delta variant is sweeping across the country, more transmissible than the original strain and just as deadly in unvaccinated individuals. In order for the vaccine to have a chance to work and lower the transmission rate in the country to the point where we can declare the pandemic over, a certain percentage threshold of vaccinated individuals needs to be met. But with the rate of vaccinated people slowing to a trickle, what’s a state to do? Some are getting creative. In West Virginia, the “Do it for Baby Dog,” campaign is sparking interest. Some states are offering a lottery-style payout for people who get vaccinated; some states have cars you can enter to win, and others are offering scholarships to state universities.
On the West Coast, states like California and Nevada are taking advantage of their legalized marijuana to do something a little different; Jabs for Joints. The campaign is an innovative way to spark social interest in getting vaccinated and—hey—you walk away with a joint for your troubles. CELEB sat down with Adam Cohen, founder and CEO of the Jardín dispensary in Las Vegas, and Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom to talk about this creative new approach.
What is Jabs for Joints?
It sounds like something uniquely Las Vegas, but the idea actually came out of Washington State with “Joints for Jabs.”
Cohen has been in the marijuana industry since 2012. The dispensary CEO started in Colorado, and moved to Las Vegas in 2016, with the dream of creating an elevated dispensary experience and lifestyle brand. Jardín has a top-tier reputation around the city, and tourists come from far afield to partake of their quality products. During the pandemic, dispensaries were considered essential businesses, giving them a very vested interest in increasing vaccination rates. Cohen explains, “We’re on the front lines, right? As essential businesses, we’re dealing with so many people; over 10,000 a week at this one location. We are uniquely positioned to provide this service.”
Cohen shares why it’s so important to him; “Some people jumped on vaccines when they first became readily available, I’m one of those. But there’s a lot of reluctance and hesitancy to get the vaccine for a variety of reasons. Some are completely understandable. But personally I’m very concerned because we see the number of infections climbing again. We have the Delta variant, which is more easily transmissible. And now that Vegas has come back to life in full force, we don’t want to have to return to lockdowns or limitations. I felt that we have both an opportunity and an obligation as good members of society and good corporate citizens to provide at least one additional resource for people to get these vaccines.”
Segerblom agrees that the combination of marijuana dispensaries and vaccination incentives seems like a good pairing, explaining, “I like to think that people who use marijuana probably support science and vaccines. But also they see other people around them taking the vaccines, maybe they feel more comfortable; ‘if they can do it, I can do it.’ Honestly, we’ve got to do whatever it takes. We have another 10% of people that we have to vaccinate.”
In Nevada, approximately 50% of the population has received at least one dose. 42% is fully vaccinated. The goal for the state is 60%. Segerblom adds, “We want everyone to see that this industry is part of this plan to move forward. Because if we go backwards and have another surge, that could kill our economy.”
Marijuana and Vaccines, the Perfect Combination?
Being able to successfully run this incentive campaign could be game-changing in Nevada. Segerblom explains, “My goal would be to have every week, a different dispensary holds a Jabs for Joints event. There’s a lot of logistics issues with nurses and everything, so having all of the dispensaries hold an event simultaneously would be difficult, but there’s no reason we can’t spread it around the valley, one a week. People can bring a friend, and make it a social thing.”
Segerblom adds that the joint itself is not the incentive, it’s the community as well; “A $10 joint for free is great, but you’re not going to drive across town for that. I think the goal is to recognize that people want to show their support, and be around other people who are showing their support. I feel the social aspect of it is going to help encourage people to participate.” The County Commissioner explains that if you can make vaccinations a social activity and tie it into the marijuana community, you can make great strides.
Consumption Lounges—Are They Next?
The marijuana industry is all about building community, and in Las Vegas they’re hoping to see something come to fruition soon—marijuana lounges. Replacing the traditional alcohol lounge, or perhaps combining with some at a later point, marijuana lounges would be a place for people to go and sit down and be socially served marijuana. It once again leans on that social aspect of the marijuana community. Cohen explains, “Any of the dispensaries who have an existing retail license for marijuana in good standing and who have suitable property may be eligible when consumption lounges are approved. Initially, they won’t be allowing alcohol in the consumption lounges so we have an opportunity to introduce a wide variety of clients to infused mocktails. They’ll see that they can go out and have a good time and not wake up with a hangover.”
With the advent of marijuana consumption lounges and the building of the marijuana community, the entire landscape of marijuana use is changing. Just this month, Olympic hopeful sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson missed an opportunity to attend the Tokyo Olympics after she tested positive for marijuana. It sparked a heated national debate; how can an athlete lose an Olympic shot over a drug that isn’t performance-enhancing, and is legal in so many states and countries? Segerblom explains that her suspension has changed things already; “The Nevada State Athletics Commission just this week voted that they’re not going to test fighters anymore for marijuana—MMA fighters and boxers. They took the lead with that. After that poor woman was kicked off the team for testing positive for marijuana, the Athletics Commission was basically saying no, we’re not going to do that. They say it’s not performance-enhancing and they shouldn’t even be testing for it.”
Jabs for Joints: Where, When, Who?
Jabs for Joints—what exactly is it? It’s what it sounds like —you arrive to receive your vaccination, and you leave with a free joint, plus a few perks to enjoy along the way.
Jardín’s team shares, “Doses of the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine will be administered alongside a roster of live deejays and food trucks in conjunction with the cannabis destination’s weekly Friday Takeoff. A guest speaking series will take place featuring Layke Martin, member of the Nevada Dispensary Association and Riana Durrett, board member of the Cannabis Compliance Board. Guests who get vaccinated on-site during this event will receive a pre-roll for a penny or a $5 gift card to be used during a future visit. No purchase is necessary to participate in this vaccine drive.”
The first event happens July 16, at Jardín in Las Vegas from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. The shots are available to anyone who is eligible. Visitors must be 21+ to enter the dispensary or 18+ with a medical marijuana card. The event is occurring as a collaboration between Jardín and Immunize Nevada, a nonprofit committed to improving the help of residents.
Cohen shares, “There will be medical personnel here administering the vaccines. And it’s up to the individual which shot they want to take. People don’t need an appointment, just show up during the time allotted. Once you get the shot, you wait for 15 minutes and then you’re on your way.”
The Jardín founder adds, “Considering the year that everybody went through, I don’t know why anyone would want to risk going through that again. As long as a significant portion of the population remains unvaccinated, we have the potential for serious derivative strains to emerge which puts everyone at risk. I’m really concerned about that. I understand why some people may be reluctant to get a vaccine. I’m not a medical doctor, but the risks of the vaccine certainly seem much safer relative to the risk of getting COVID.”