California Vaccine Guidelines Prioritize Marijuana Workers Over Teachers, Promoting ‘Equity’
AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - FEBRUARY 07: A cannabis plant grows in the Amsterdam Cannabis College, a non profit charitable organisation that gives information on cannabis and hemp use on February 7, 2007 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. The city council in Amsterdam has recently voted in favour of introducing a citywide ban on smoking marijuana in public areas. A successful trial ban in the De Baarsjes district of Amsterdam has been declared a success after a reduction in anti social behaviour.
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

According to the “Updated COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation Guidelines” from the California Department of Public Health, medical marijuana workers are being prioritized ahead of those working in education or childcare services, as well as many over the age of 65.

Updated on February 13, the guidelines define two phases — Phase 1A and Phase 1B — which describe vaccine eligibility for various groups “based on available supply.”

Phase 1A applies to 3,142,166 Californians under the “healthcare workers and LTC residents” category, while Phase 1B applies to 5,960,528 Californians under the “food/agriculture, education/healthcare, and emergency services” category, and 6,254,300 Californians in the “over 65 years-old” category.

The guidelines also include a section titled “Achieving equity,” which states that “This age-based framework will be coupled with a vaccine distribution and engagement approach that prioritizes disproportionately impacted communities, settings, and populations to ensure those eligible for vaccines within these communities are more likely to receive it.”

By the California Department of Public Health’s announcement, “cannabis industry employees” are included in Phase 1A for “medicinal cannabis,” with “growing, production, storage, transport and distribution” included in Phase 1B.

According to these guidelines, medicinal cannabis industry employees will be prioritized ahead of those who “work in any role in the following Education and Child Care settings:”

  • All formal and informal childcare workers, including day care providers
  • All staff in colleges, universities, junior colleges, community colleges, and other postsecondary education facilities
  • All staff in educational support services and administration
  • All staff in Pre-kindergarten, elementary, middle, and high schools
  • All staff in technical and trade schools
  • Any other workers involved in child and/or student care, including school bus drivers and monitors, crosswalk guards, etc.

They are also prioritized ahead of “Persons at risk of occupational exposure to SARS-CoV-2 through their work in any role in the Emergency Services & Food and Agriculture Sectors from CA Essential Workforce list,” which includes “Public, private, and voluntary personnel (front line and management) in emergency management, law enforcement, fire and rescue services, emergency medical services, corrections, rehabilitation and reentry, search and rescue, hazardous material response, and technicians supporting maritime and aviation emergency response,” Workers responding to abuse and neglect of children, elders and dependent adults,” and “Workers in animal diagnostic and food testing laboratories.”

Finally, medicinal cannabis industry employees will be prioritized ahead of over 6 million Californians who fall into the “over 65 years-old” category.

However, the guidelines also appear to be somewhat contradictory, including the line “Medical cannabis workers should be accommodated as necessary in Phase 1b, Tier 1, by nature of their designations in eligible essential workforce classifications.”

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “The San Francisco COVID Command Center said its ‘primary focus right now is to vaccinate the 65 and older population as they represent just 15 percent of the population but over 83 percent of all deaths,’ but did not say whether cannabis workers would be excluded from the top tier of the vaccination rollout.” 

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