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Washington dispensaries call for clarity in 'Joints for Jabs' program

Marijuana dispensary owners say they want to help get people vaccinated against COVID-19, but there are still a lot of unanswered questions on how to do it.

TACOMA, Wash. — Marijuana dispensaries in Washington state are trying to find where they fit into the "Joints for Jabs" program announced earlier this week, which would give people a joint in exchange for a COVID-19 vaccination. 

Duane Dunn, owner of Emerald Leaves Dispensary in Tacoma, told KING 5 he wants to know how he can help get people vaccinated because he's always interested in helping the community.

"We’ve done COVID-19 relief drives, where we’ve fed 2,000 families, we’ve done coat drives, so this is right up our wheel house," Dunn said.

When the Joints for Jabs program was announced Monday, Dunn contacted state officials to find out how he could get involved. But he quickly realized he was being told what he could do, without any steps on how to do it. 

"There’s really no instructions on how to turn your retail store into a pop-up clinic," Dunn said. "I called several people trying to figure out how to get this done. They had the rules as far as the LCB (Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board) rules, as far as what we could give out, and so forth and so on, but as far as getting the clinic up and going was the difficult part."

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Unlike bars, where people only need to show their COVID-19 vaccination card to get a free drink, the Joints for Jabs program requires qualifying customers to get a shot of the vaccine at the dispensary before getting one pre-rolled joint.

Some retailers have pointed to this requirement as a reason for why they’re not completely sold on the program.

But elected officials are hoping that issues like this can be worked out so Washington can move forward.

"This is new to us. So we’re trying to do everything we can to get people vaccinated so that we can have a full recovery," said Washington state Rep. Marilyn Strickland, who represents the 10th District.

In the meantime, Dunn is hoping authorities can establish how dispensaries should move forward, so they can do their part in fighting COVID-19.

"Just a framework around the process so that we’re not left guessing. So we’re not left exposed to violations from the Liquor Control Board. Just a great framework and transparency on how to get this done," he said.

The Joints for Jabs program will run until July 12, and anyone over the age of 21 is eligible to participate. The hope is that these types of incentives will get vaccinations high enough to reach Gov. Jay Inslee’s goal of 70%, and fully reopen the state by the end of June.