Maryland cannabis employees deemed “registered healthcare providers” and will receive COVID vaccine

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Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

According to Maryland Health Department‘s recently released directives, cannabis employees in the state must receive the same COVID-19 vaccine status as healthcare workers. 

The Department confirms that individuals who work at cultivation sites, dispensaries, labs and processing facilities now qualify as “registered health care providers.” However, the qualification only applies if they possess an active registration with the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission (MMCC)

Healthcare providers and Maryland’s cannabis employees will be first to receive the initial round of COVID-19 vaccinations. According to the Baltimore Business Journal, the MMCC has already informed in excess of 130 licensed cannabis companies that their employees qualify for Phase 1A of the state’s tiered vaccine distribution plan. 

Reporters from the newspaper were told by a SunMed Growers representative that employees have already started signing up for the coronavirus vaccine; by the time this piece is published, many will have already received the first round of the vaccine.

The fact that cannabis employees in Maryland are being dubbed “registered health care providers” further solidifies the “essential” designation that businesses and employees in this industry received at the beginning of the pandemic.

Maryland lawmaker files bill ahead of new legislative session 

As December drew to a close, state lawmaker Del. Jazz Lewis (D) decided to stir things up a bit. Lewis, a lead proponent in the House of Delegates, revealed an early draft of what Maryland’s legal cannabis market might look like. Lewis told Marijuana Moment reporters that he and other lawmakers filed HB0032 “because we have the data and popular opinion on our side to end prohibition.”

With a new legislative session looming, the timing couldn’t have been better. After all, lawmakers are sure to ponder over the bill, which was first shared with reporters on Tuesday, December 22. Additionally, if adult-use cannabis in Maryland is legalized, the market is expected to yield significant economic returns post-pandemic.

Although Lewis’ office claims to still be working on Maryland’s legal cannabis bill, the current version would legalize and regulate the plant. Moreover, Lewis’ draft legislation would permit sales by state-licensed businesses, develop a social equity program that assists communities affected by cannabis prohibition, as well as expunge previous convictions.

Nonetheless, his office says that “things are subject to change.”

Maryland cannabis advocates are pushing to end employment discrimination

In separate albeit related news, legislation is currently pending to stop medical cannabis patients in Maryland from experiencing employment discrimination. Senate Bill 504 is designed to forbid a cannabis employer from discriminating against existing and potential employees if they return a positive THC test. 

Only patients who can provide written proof that they are certified to use medical cannabis could avoid being penalized. Moreover, a qualifying patient must have been doctor-diagnosed with a minimum of one condition specified by the MMCC.

Before obtaining their medicine, patients must also register with the Commission. Once registered, they can get their hands on a medical cannabis card, which provides them with the identification they need to procure their daily plant limit. Enrolled patients can possess a 30-day supply or 120 grams of flower in any given time. A larger supply may be offered to patients who have been given a special dispensation.

It is important to note that a written certification is different to a prescription and therefore shall not suffice when obtaining medical cannabis in Maryland. The rules state that the benefits of cannabis consumption must “outweigh the health risks” if a patient is to be accepted into the program.