State Watch

Washington state to allow free pot with vaccines

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The Washington state agency charged with overseeing the legal recreational cannabis market will allow licensed retailers to give free marijuana to those who receive a coronavirus vaccine at in-store vaccination clinics.

In a statement Monday, the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board said it would temporarily waive rules to allow legal pot retailers to trade a jab for one pre-rolled joint to anyone receiving a first or second dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

The board said it had received several requests from licensed cannabis dealers to hand out free marijuana in an effort to bolster Washington’s vaccination program. The retailers can advertise the giveaways, though they must still abide by strict advertising requirements that limits the way they can hawk their products.

States have dramatically stepped up incentive programs in an effort to speed the acceptance of coronavirus vaccines, even as demand has slowed.

About half a dozen states are offering lotteries with cash prizes, following the lead of Ohio, where Gov. Mike DeWine (R) implemented the first such program with a $1 million top prize. California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said last week his state would hand out $116 million in total prizes, including 15 $50,000 awards doled out on Friday.

West Virginia is handing out $100 savings bonds to those under the age of 35 who get a vaccine. Arkansas will give away free hunting and fishing licenses, Illinois is distributing 50,000 tickets to Six Flags parks, and Indiana officials are doling out Girl Scout cookie boxes. In Delaware, prisoners who accept a coronavirus vaccine can get a special meal or five days’ credit against their sentences.

New Jersey and Connecticut have announced deals to trade beer for those who get their shots, and Anheuser-Busch has promised a free beer to everyone over the age of 21 if at least 70 percent of the population is vaccinated by the July 4 holiday.

But the United States has a long way to go to keep the free beer flowing. Just more than half of Americans have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. More than two-thirds of residents in Vermont, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Connecticut and Maine have received at least one dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Fewer than 40 percent of residents of Tennessee, Idaho, Wyoming, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi have received jabs.

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