California cannabis workers eligible for immediate COVID-19 vaccinations

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The California Department of Public Health on Thursday issued an updated COVID-19 vaccination policy clarifying that cannabis industry employees are classified as health-care workers and therefore are immediately eligible to receive the vaccine.

According to the bulletin, “cannabis industry employees are included in Phase 1a for medicinal cannabis and Phase 1b Food and Agriculture for growing, production, storage, transport and distribution.

“Medical cannabis workers should be accommodated as necessary in Phase 1b, Tier 1, by nature of their designations in eligible essential workforce classifications.”

The CDPH website notes that Phase 1a means those workers qualify for immediate vaccinations while Phase 1b means those employees are eligible to receive injections based on vaccine availability.

Several industry groups had been pushing California regulators to make such a policy move based on:

  • Gov. Gavin Newsom classifying the marijuana industry as “essential” at the start of the coronavirus pandemic last March.
  • The reliance of many Californians on cannabis for medicinal purposes.

California’s move follows one by Maryland, which in January gave its marijuana industry employees priority as vaccine recipients.

Such COVID-19 guidelines, while welcome, present a new management challenge for marijuana businesses.