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Rasta sage lights up weed-for-vaccine incentive

Published:Tuesday | September 14, 2021 | 12:09 AMAdrian Frater/News Editor
Ras Iyah V
Ras Iyah V


Montego Bay-based medical cannabis dispensary Outlier has joined the effort to get Jamaicans vaccinated against COVID-19 with the novel ‘Weed for Vaccine’ campaign, which it hopes will push smokers to line up for the jab.

But one of Jamaica’s most influential Rastafarian voices has bristled at the twinning of vaccines with a plant the religious group views as a sacrament.

Outlier follows in the steps of companies offering discounts and/or giveaways to vaccinated people. The company was granted a permit by the Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA) in 2019. The dispensary falls under the Outlier Biopharma group of biotechnology companies focused on research, development, and manufacturing of cannabis and cannabinoid-based products.

Managing Director Brian Thelwell said that Outlier was “really excited” to give away pre-rolls to persons 18 years and older who visit the store with proof of full vaccination.

“We want to do our part to inspire both Jamaicans and tourists to be safe and stay healthy,” said Thelwell.

Persons will also need a medical recommendation or medical marijuana card from a licensed dispensary. In lieu of this, persons can see an Outlier’s doctor at a reduced cost, the company said in a statement.

The coronavirus lockdowns have slowed foot traffic to its store, spokesperson Abigail Rowe disclosed, but Outlier is confident of an uptick in interest.

However, the weed-for-vax campaign does not sit well with Ras Iyah V, who heads the Westmoreland Hemp and Ganja Association.

“I don’t like the idea of linking the herbs to the vaccine because Rastafari doesn’t support the vaccine, especially this one that has not gone through any clinical trial of note,” said the Rastafarian elder. “This idea of giving away pre-roll looks like the offering of a bribe to me and I really don’t like that at all.”

But Marlon Rowe, who reported having a permit to legally purchase cannabis, said that Outlier’s offer could not have come at a better time.

“I am double-vaccinated, so I will be having a fine time until this campaign is over. It is good to be getting something free in these times of very little money, so I see this as a form of savings for me,” said Rowe.

“Mi sorry for my unvaccinated friends because they will be missing out.”

The ‘Weed for Vaccine’ promotion, which will last until September 25, will be available to the first 50 persons who visit the store each day.

Outlier’s campaign mirrors the ‘joint for jabs’ initiative in Washington, DC. Early in that campaign, it was reported that 10,000 joints had been given away within weeks.