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Cannabis activists donate bags of marijuana to those receiving COVID-19 vaccine

Cannabis activists have come up with a way to entice more people to get the coronavirus vaccine: Give them weed.

The group D.C. Marijuana Justice — the architects of Initiative 71, the 2014 ballot initiative that legalized pot possession and cultivation in the District — are plotting a cannabis giveaway around vaccination sites in the city. Those sites haven’t been announced yet, but the organization is readying volunteers to distribute free baggies of marijuana at multiple vaccination centers as they come online.

So far, local growers have pledged three pounds of cannabis to the giveaway, and organizers hope to collect a total of five pounds by the time they begin handing it out, according to D.C. Marijuana Justice co-founder Adam Eidinger.

Former D.C. Council member David Grosso is the namesake of a local marijuana strain. Cannabis advocates say they plan to distribute “Grasso’s Green” seeds at D.C. vaccination sites. (Photo by Rachel Kurzius/DCist)

As an added bonus, the group also plans to give away seeds for a local cannabis strain named after former D.C. Councilmember David Grosso. Some of the seeds — dubbed “Grasso’s Green” — were sourced directly from Grosso, a cannabis advocate who departed D.C. politics at the end of 2020.

Grosso says he’s honored to lend his name to the strain.

“I think it’s totally cool,” says the ex-lawmaker, who is now a lobbyist.

Eidinger says he hopes the giveaway draws more people into the city’s vaccination centers. But he also wants it to serve as an educational opportunity. Anti-vaccine sentiment is still common among cannabis users and the public in general, he says. And some of those seeking vaccines may still not be convinced that cannabis has medicinal benefits, he says.

“If you believe in the science that supports medical cannabis, you should believe the science that supports the efficacy of the vaccine,” and vice versa, Eidinger says.

Cannabis also has a way of bringing people together, the advocate adds.

DCMJ tested the unifying power of weed with a joint giveaway the group held during the 2017 inauguration of President Donald Trump. As pro-Trump bikers and anti-Trump activists clashed in downtown Washington, tension between the two factions thawed as volunteers handed out thousands of joints in Dupont Circle. Eidinger called the 2017 event an “olive branch to Trump supporters.”

DCMJ had expected to give away joints during the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris this month, but health and safety factors shelved that idea, the group says.

Organizers also plan to distribute loose cannabis this time, as opposed to prerolled joints. Eidinger says many people who picked up free doobies at the 2017 event smoked them on-site — a violation of city law. Also, hand-rolled joints present health risks during a pandemic, he says.

“Four years ago, we handed out over 10,000 joints — and we licked those joints,” Eidinger said. “Today, we think that’s an issue.”

The activist says the free weed will be handed out in individual bags, handled by volunteers wearing masks and gloves, from a safe distance outdoors.

Grosso says he’s glad to see some of his seeds go to a good cause. He donated them to Eidinger after an experiment with home cultivation went awry, he says. He says he began growing in the spring of 2020 using seeds that Eidinger gave him, pledging to donate some of the finished product to low-income medical patients. But he failed to kill a male cannabis plant in the bunch, leading it to pollinate his other plants and destroy their capacity to produce buds.

“I went away on vacation for a week… and they’d all gone to seed,” Grosso says.

He gifted the seeds to Eidinger in exchange for roughly an ounce of pot, he says — a fair exchange.

“I was just going to throw away all these things,” says Grosso, who has a medical marijuana card in D.C. “I can get [marijuana] already, and usually I do edibles anyway.”

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