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Shots and pot: Get free weed at pop-up COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Long Beach

COVID-19 vaccine syringes
COVID-19 vaccine syringes are lined up on a tray. On July 24, the first 150 residents to get vaccinated at Houghton Park in Long Beach from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. will receive a token redeemable for a free pre-rolled marijuana joint.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Before you “puff, puff, pass,” go get the vax.

That’s the recommendation from two Long Beach groups encouraging residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

As the Delta variant becomes the dominant strain of the coronavirus in California, grassroots organizations are innovating ways to get residents vaccinated — including one creative idea from the Long Beach Collective Assn., a coalition of cannabis businesses, and Long Beach Forward, an advocacy organization for low-income communities of color.

In a pop-up event cheekily titled “Joints for Jabs” on Saturday, July 24, the first 150 residents to get vaccinated at Houghton Park from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. will receive a token redeemable for a free pre-rolled marijuana joint, according to a news release. Participants must be 21 or older to receive a token.

“We all want to have a safe summer and enjoy one another’s company even as the pandemic continues on and recreation opens up,” Long Beach Forward’s executive director, James Suazo, said in a statement. “Cannabis is part of our Long Beach culture, and to safely share a joint without contributing to the spread of COVID-19, we must all do our part to get vaccinated. With the delta variant becoming the dominant COVID-19 strain in Los Angeles County, we want our unvaccinated neighbors to catch a free marijuana strain instead so we can protect each other.”

The event is not run by the city, which continues to offer free vaccines daily.

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Free cannabis joints are the latest in a series of gags across the country to incentivize people to get vaccinated. Other places have offered free beer, doughnuts, vehicles — and, in California’s case, $1.5 million checks.

On July 8, Long Beach passed the goal President Biden set to administer at least one dose of the vaccine to at least 70% of adults, the city’s Public Health Department reported. Almost 267,000 residents have been vaccinated, according to the city’s COVID-19 digital dashboard. But the 90805 ZIP Code, where Houghton Park is located, holds one of the lowest vaccination rates in the city, with only 48.6% having received at least one shot.


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