Medical marijuana industry workers are now available to get the COVID-19 vaccine in California — ahead of teachers, school bus drivers and grocery store workers.
Leaders in the cannabis industry lobbied Gov. Gavin Newsom to include their employees in Phase 1B, Tier 1 of the state’s vaccine plan — the group that includes food and agriculture workers, law enforcement, teachers and other essential workers, the Los Angeles Times reported.
But instead, state officials advanced them to Phase 1A with other healthcare workers.
Jerred Kiloh, the president of Cannabis Business Association and owner of Higher Path dispensary in Sherman Oaks, said it was high time that people like him were recognized as medical workers.
“After 26 years of calling it medical marijuana, how can you now disenfranchise what we’ve called medical and then tell us we’re not health workers or that we’re not providing medicine for people?” he told the LA Times. “It’s slightly disingenuous to put a label on something and then take it away whenever it’s convenient for you as a government.”
The state also pushed up cannabis workers involved in growing, production, storage, transportation and distribution to Phase 1B, Tier 1, making them the next in line to get the jabs, with people 65 and older and those working in the education and childcare, agriculture and food and emergency services sectors.
Like many other states in the country, California is facing vaccine shortages — forcing some parts to hold off on jabbing certain groups and others to reduce the number of first doses administered in order to ensure there are enough second doses to go around, the LA Times said.
The outlet said as of Saturday, 8.1 million doses have been delivered to the state, with 5.3 million administered.
But not every California county is following suit. San Diego County officials is ignoring the state’s guide, putting cannabis industry workers behind law enforcement, firefighters, teachers and people with underlying health conditions, officials said earlier this month.
State guidelines say only those who sell cannabis at medical dispensaries are eligible for the vaccine in Phase 1A — but most of the Golden State’s 1,200 shops are licensed to sell with or without doctor’s recommendations, the report said.
Confusion could abound, too. Vaccine workers may be unable to quickly determine which marijuana shops don’t also serve as a medical dispensary.
But other medical marijuana store workers say they’re in dire need of protection during the pandemic.
“Have you ever gone to a dispensary? A lot of them are not well-ventilated. There’s a lot of people that go inside there, even though we keep our capacity at a minimum,” said Paul Hanson, who manages Hollywood High Grade. “People come in here who are sick. On top of that, it’s a cash-only business.”