California Cannabis Workers Now Included In First Phase of COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout


Those working in California’s medical cannabis industry are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, under new guidelines issued last week by the state’s department of public health. 

Those workers are included under Phase 1A, the highest priority tier for the coronavirus vaccination, a “clarification” the agency said was necessary due to “to overlapping definitions in the Health Care and Public Health and Food and Agriculture Essential Workforce definitions.”

The department says that Phase 1A eligibility includes individuals “at risk of direct patient exposure in settings” that are included under California’s essential workforce list. 

This “includes both clinical and non-clinical roles,” according to the department of public health, along with “workers who come into direct contact with the virus through research, development, manufacturing or testing are included” and “workers who are manufacturing vaccine, therapeutics, devices, supplies or personal protective equipment supporting the COVID-19 response.” It also includes long-term care residents.

In its clarification issued last Thursday, the department said that cannabis industry employees are now included in 1A, while those involved in “food and agriculture for growing, production, storage, transport and distribution” are now included in Phase 1B. 

Phase 1B includes individuals aged 65 and older, as well as those working in education and childcare, emergency services and food and agriculture. 

“Medical cannabis workers should be accommodated as necessary in Phase 1b, Tier 1, by nature of their designations in eligible essential workforce classifications,” the department said in the guidance. 

COVID-19 Vaccines in California

The vaccine rollout in the Golden State has been beset by an ever-shifting protocol and a scarcity of supply. 

The Sacramento Bee noted in a report published last week that, due in part to scarcity and delays, the state has “changed its vaccine prioritization framework at least three times in little over a month, including one switch that went virtually unnoticed,” while adding that a “key state panel has just proposed a fourth change to the framework.”

“One’s age is now the key factor in deciding who gets the vaccine ahead of others, while those who are homeless, incarcerated are no longer being prioritized,” the newspaper said. “Neither is a list of other essential workers, including transit workers, factory and warehouse workers and janitors.”

Compounding matters has been an alarming lack of vaccine supply, something that California Gov. Gavin Newsom grimly acknowledged on Monday.

“We need to see that ramped up,” Newsom said during a news conference in San Diego, as quoted by the Associated Press. “We’re going to need to see more doses coming into the state of California in order to keep these mass sites operational and to keep things moving.”

The Associated Press said that roughly “800,000 Californians are fully immunized now but millions of others who are eligible have yet to get their first doses,” with the governor noting that “the state received just over 1 million doses of vaccine last week and the next weekly shipment will be only slightly larger.” 

On Tuesday, Newsom was in the Bay Area to unveil what is anticipated to be the state’s largest vaccination site at Levi’s Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers.



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