D.C. marijuana activists stage 'Joints for Jabs' to promote vaccines

WASHINGTON, April 20 (Reuters) - Josh Miller walked away from the U.S. capital's convention center on Tuesday with a COVID-19 vaccination and a joint.

He was among the Washingtonians who took advantage of "Joints for Jabs," a weed giveaway by a local advocacy organization to encourage residents to get vaccinated and lobby their council members to reform the city's marijuana laws.

"I'm here for multiple reasons," Miller said outside the Walter E. Washington Convention Center after collecting a tube containing a tightly rolled joint. "One, I got my vaccine. Two, I enjoy marijuana for me. So, I have chronic back pain. So, it helps me."

A similar event was held in New York City on Tuesday, marking the informal April 20 pot holiday, also known as 4/20.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser's office says 30 percent of the city's more than 692,000 residents have been fully or partially vaccinated against COVID-19.

Standing socially distanced in the bright spring sunshine after receiving their shots, Miller and other masked residents waited to receive joints from activists of D.C. Marijuana Justice at a table covered with literature and a cloth embossed with cannabis leaves.

"There are too many people denying science when it comes to the vaccines, and we want to say if you believe that cannabis is scientifically proven to be safe, then you also have to believe that the vaccine is safe because it too has been scientifically proven to be safe using clinical trials," said activist Adam Eidinger.

The city legalized recreational marijuana use in 2015 after the passage of a ballot referendum. But, Eidinger said, local marijuana laws need reforming.

"Since 2015 it's been legal to grow marijuana in Washington D.C. in your home. But it's not legal to sell it yet. We would like to be able to sell it," he said.

The organization is pressing for other changes, including replacing criminal penalties associated with marijuana with fines, warnings and other civil penalties and allowing it to be sold in the city's farmers' markets.

Megan Krest, another person waiting in line, was encouraged by the joint giveaway.

"I think it's a really cool way for people to, you know, incentivize getting their vaccine," she said.

Reporting by Jonathan Landay; Editing by Aurora Ellis

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