Opinion: Cannabis workers should be in early phase of COVID-19 vaccine distribution
–Employees in California’s cannabis industry have been working on-site and in-person during the pandemic because they were deemed “essential” by the state in March 2020. And based on the state’s latest guidance, they should be included in Phase 1B or 1C of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution, but it is still not clear when or how it will be available.
This is unwise and unacceptable.
As the pandemic took hold, Governor Newsom issued an executive order requiring most Californians to work from home. Those deemed “essential” could continue going to work, which included health care, law enforcement, grocery stores and pharmacies, as well as supply chains that keep essential products on the shelf. Cannabis employees were also declared essential in March 2020, which included those in cultivation, manufacturing, distribution and retail.
The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has convened a Community Vaccine Advisory Committee to help decide who will be eligible to get the vaccine in what order. This is a good thing as we need a science-based approach to guide this process.
And Perfect Union has been participating with the Advisory Committee in their decision-making process, writing letters and offering testimony. We have also been communicating with county health departments in the communities we serve, but we still do not have clarity on when essential cannabis workers will be eligible for the vaccine or what that process looks like.
The cannabis industry has gone to great lengths to make our businesses as safe as possible for employees and customers during these unprecedented times. We adjusted our store operations to comply with local county and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidelines, which includes sanitizing surfaces regularly, reducing capacity, practicing social distancing and wearing masks. Perfect Union also led the industry by installing hand sanitation schedules and offering curbside pickup to further protect our customers and staff.
Despite our efforts, essential cannabis workers face inherent risk going to work. Our dispensaries often service more than two thousand customers per day; many of which have preexisting conditions that make them more vulnerable to the virus. And for these customers, cannabis is just as important as prescription medications to their health and wellness. It’s also no surprise that a recent University of California, San Francisco, study found that essential workers bear the greatest risk of death among Californians.
We believe prioritizing essential workers, along with providing clear direction and timing, would go a long way to help protect the communities we serve. I’m incredibly proud that our team has navigated this pandemic while still providing the same quality education and one-on-one attention to our customers. It’s time we thank our essential workers for their dedication and service to Californians by prioritizing their health and safety.
By David Spradlin, CEO of Perfect Union
Perfect Union has a cannabis store in Morro Bay and other locations throughout California.