A coalition of marijuana businesses is asking California policymakers to specifically include cannabis workers in the next phase of COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
Marijuana companies have been deemed essential services throughout the pandemic, and the group argues that there are unique risks in the industry because workers frequently interact with patients who might be more vulnerable to the virus because they are immune compromised or elderly.
Like grocery workers and other people eligible for vaccination in Phase 1B, they say those employed in the cannabis sector should be next in line.
“Over the course of the last nine months, industry workers have been providing essential medicine to thousands of Californians every day,” the coalition of more than 20 cannabis firms wrote in a letter to the California Department of Public Health’s Community Vaccine Advisory Committee. “Despite numerous health and safety measure instituted at great expense by employers, this work has been done with inherent risk.”
Almost all states where cannabis is legal for medical or recreational purposes declared that the industry serves an essential purpose and could continue to operate amid the pandemic. Advocacy groups had pushed governors and state officials to ensure that medical marijuana patients in particular can maintain access to the cannabis they need.
“Despite a global pandemic, California’s cannabis industry has continued to work tirelessly to provide quality products in a safe manner,” David Spradlin, CEO of the marijuana company Perfect Union, said in a press release. “Even after following health and safety measures, cannabis workers face inherent risk going to work and cannot shelter in place.”
“And unlike traditional retail, many that visit cannabis dispensaries are also those most vulnerable to severe COVID-19 complications, including the immune-compromised and elderly,” he said. “I urge state policymakers to explicitly include essential cannabis workers in Phase 1B of the vaccine rollout to keep our patients and staff safe.”
Twenty-three other marijuana businesses signed the letter, including Wyld, Carter’s Aromatherapy Design, Maven Genetics, Megan’s Organic Market, PLUS Products, Loudpack and Vet CBD.
While states have taken steps to protect the market and ensure that patients and consumers maintain access, the same can’t be said of the federal government.
Because marijuana remains federally illegal, cannabis companies have been denied economic relief through agencies like the Small Business Administration. Even industries that work “indirectly” with state-legal marijuana businesses are ineligible for certain relief loans.
Read the letter from the California marijuana coalition below:
Photo by Get Budding on Unsplash.