Vaxxers toke up: Activists in Union Square say ‘Don’t be Doobious’ of the COVID-19 vaccine

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4/20 was filled with smoke on Union Square.
Photo by Dean Moses

New Yorkers toked up for a good cause on 4/20.

Marijuana activists were blazing away the coronavirus one joint at a time on Union Square as members of ACT Up—an AIDS activist group— and other groups distributed free weed rollups to those who have received their COVID-19 vaccines.

Dubbed Joints for Jabs, this effort aims to incentivize smokers to lift their arms up for more than just a drag of the devil’s lettuce, it also hoped also to secure the importance of COVID-19 inoculations. Led by 74-year-old Dana Beal and fellow activist Todd Hinden, this initiative is eager to get attendees high and COVID free.

Attendees were proud to light up and show their vaccine cards. Photo by Dean Moses

At 11 a.m., a small table was erected directly in front of the George Washington statue in Union Square, where adults aged 21 and older who showcased proof that they have been fully vaccinated were eligible to receive their free joint.

Joint for Jabs is aiming to both celebrate and inspire. In addition to prompting  New Yorkers to do their part by protecting themselves and those around them through vaccinations, this year’s 4/20 is also the first time New Yorkers can legally celebrate the low-key holiday after Governor Andrew Cuomo and fellow legislators passed the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), which allows recreational marijuana use (permitted wherever smoking is allowed). 

Todd Hinden hands out the joints for those who had the jab. Photo by Dean Moses

“Everyone is talking about getting vaccinated. So, we are trying to encourage people to do it. By doing so, if you come here showing vaccination paperwork, card, proof, we will give you a free joint,” Todd Hinden, said, who helped distributed the buds.

Although Hinden believes making the practice legal is a good first step, he also believes there is much more work to be done. Now that activists have combined the idea of smoking weed with vaccines, there is an even High-er calling.

“We are just trying to get people aware and teach people about the bigger picture. Now that legalization is going in every state that is just a tiny piece, we have to get the Black, Spanish, and people that are in jail for cannabis crimes out of prison,” Hinden said, dressed in a suit covered in cartoon cannabis leaves.

Todd Hinden shows off his joints. Photo by Dean Moses

There are, however, a few caveats to the MRTA. Persons cannot smoke and drive or have anyone in the vehicle toking up. Likewise, retail sale of marijuana begins in April 2022, New Yorkers can carry up to 3 ounces or 24 grams of concentrated forms and grow up to six plants starting in 2023.

“We are trying to work with the Federal government on two things: Support the vaccination and legalize weed on the federal level. We are trying to do both with this event,” Michael O’Malley, the inventor of Curved Papers (an easy-to-use rolling paper company).

O’Malley was contacted by Joint for Jabs organizer Dana Beal to help provide the rolling papers to use for the event. About 25 individuals helped to roll approximately 2,400 joints for Tuesday’s budding celebration from 11 am to 4:20 pm.

Blowing legal smoke. Photo by Dean Moses

Activists are advocating that users celebrate responsibly. Attendees were also asked to provide their contact information for emails about future Weedcentric events, such as the May 1st Cannabis Parade at 10:30 a.m., but organizers are currently unsure where the location will be and will keep those interested updated via Facebook.

The event was scheduled to take place from 11 a.m. to 4:20 p.m., and as time edged to those closing minutes the line of bud enthusiasts wrapped around the West side of Union Square Park from 14 Street up to 16th Street. The usual springtime splendor of Union Square Park was filled with music, skaters, and the smell of Ganja billowing through the street, creating a haven for some.

Vano, who goes by his stage name Vano3000, is a producer who was arrested for possession of marijuana while in Georgia. For him, today was a momentous occasion to bask in while also celebrating the need for vaccinations.

Larry the birdman was happy to attend. Photo by Dean Moses

“It’s beautiful. I didn’t think New York could do it so fast,” Vano said, while holding onto his joint, adding, “It’s needed, and weed is going to cure a lot of things including mental disorders and probably would even cure racism.”

Hundreds of individuals lined up peacefully to receive their free joint. Some took theirs to go, while others simply sat on Union Square Park’s steps and lit up their joint in celebration of their health.

“I’m here for the community. At the end of the day, everybody wants to smoke, it’s 4/20, everybody wants to get high and get their mind right. There is a lot of corona going around and people’s minds is f***ed up.  We need to get help,” Jonel said, happy to smoke freely in the street.

A smoke and a jab. Photo by Dean Moses