California cannabis workers entitled to receive immediate COVID-19 vaccinations

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Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

A number of high-demand industry workers in California are being informed of their coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine eligibility. Included within Phase 1 eligibility are a handful of alternative care sectors, including cannabis and massage therapy.

Cannabis industry workers were informed of the news via a February 4 bulletin posted by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). As per details of the COVID-19 vaccination policy, cannabis industry employees are considered to fall under the scope of “health-care workers” and will be immediately eligible to get vaccinated.

Cannabis industry employees are included in Phase 1a for medicinal cannabis and Phase 1b Food and Agriculture for growing, production, storage, transport and distribution,” reads the bulletin. “Medical cannabis workers should be accommodated as necessary in Phase 1b, Tier 1, by nature of their designations in eligible essential workforce classifications.”

Information published on the CDPH website states that Phase 1a workers can qualify for the COVID-19 vaccine immediately, whereas Phase 1b workers will be chosen according to vaccine availability.

Industry groups urged California regulators to include cannabis industry workers in Phase 1 of COVID-19 vaccine

California is following in the footsteps of Maryland, which prioritized its cannabis industry employees as vaccine recipients back in January. The Governor’s decision has been heavily swayed by consumer buying behaviors amid COVID-19.

Last March, when the coronavirus pandemic flared up across the United States, many cannabis consumers started stocking up on weed. In particular, California’s medical cannabis consumers quickly realized that they didn’t want to go without their medicine. Consequently, the industry saw an uptick in sales and Gov. Gavin Newsom classified the legal weed industry as “essential”.

Before Newsom’s decision was announced on February 4, members of the United Cannabis Business Association (UCBA) sent a letter to the Governor’s vaccine advisory committee, urging them to prioritize cannabis industry workers for the coronavirus vaccine. 

“We wish to thank Governor Newsom for his continued commitment in support of Essential Cannabis Workers,” reads a statement from the cannabis advocacy group, which celebrated his recent decision.

New California coronavirus rule extends medical cannabis card expiration date 

In separate news that was announced on Thursday, January 21, Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed an executive order that extends the expiration date on medical cannabis cards amid COVID-19. Californian patients who are in possession of a card will be happy to hear the hews, since the extension will be indefinite.

As per California’s new coronavirus rule, all medical cannabis ID cardholders whose identification would have expired on or before March 2020 can now benefit from an extension during the pandemic. Gov. Newsom justifies the extension on the basis that the needs of medical cannabis patients must be met in the midst of a persistent state of emergency.

“We are deeply appreciative of the governor’s efforts to ensure that medical cannabis patients, many with severe and debilitating conditions, will continue to have access to legal, quality cannabis products. This action is also consistent with the principle, which the governor has embraced, that cannabis is an essential business and that these products must be accessible to everyone,” said a legislative advocate for the California Cannabis Industry Association named Amy Jenkins.

Medical cannabis cardholders in California can sidestep sales and use tax charges. Under normal circumstances, qualified patients must renew their cards every year at designated county public health offices. Specific medical documentation must also be obtained by the patient who wishes to renew their card. 

Thanks to Governor Newsom’s new rule, patients can continue receiving their medicine without overstepping social distancing boundaries to renew the expiry date.