On September 13, 2021, proof of vaccination became an entry requirement for a number of businesses, social events, and activities. For consumers, the rules are clear but for employers, they’re not. When it comes to employee vaccine requirements, it’s up to the discretion of each employer; even in the case of essential businesses. The only employment sector with set rules is health care. By October 12, 2021, vaccines will be mandatory for anyone working in this field. It begs the question, where exactly does that leave all the people that work with cannabis? Medical and recreational, there are a lot of branches to the industry and each has its own level of public interaction. Here is a look at the employee vaccination requirements for the Canadian cannabis industry.
A welcome sign of a return to normal life, cannabis events are coming back! Borders are still tricky so the attendees are usually locals, but it’s a step in the right direction. In their own socially distant fashion, cannabis trade shows are firing up again. Each event will have to stay up to date on the local public health protocols, especially when scheduled in multiple cities. But, with proper sanitation, we are adapting and cannabis events can happen again.
International Cannabis Business Conference – Before the pandemic, the ICBC hopped from Europe to North America, to connect the global cannabis business community. Their absence has been sorely missed but thankfully, the conference is slowly starting up again. This past August, the ICBC hosted its first in-person conference in Berlin and Zurich. So far, future dates have only been announced in Germany.
MJBIZCON “THE WORLD’S LARGEST CANNA-BIZ CONFERENCE” – Taking place in Las Vegas, MJBIZCON is known as the world’s largest canna-biz conference. It started in 2016 after cannabis was legalized in Nevada and since then has grown to epic proportions. Back in 2018, the MJBIZCON attracted over a thousand exhibitors and twenty thousand attendees; each year it kept growing. Forced to cancel, this year will be the first that it returns to Las Vegas and the cannabis community couldn’t be more excited! Set to take place from October 19th to 22nd, 2021, the MJBIZCON takes COVID-19 very seriously. In order for this event to take place, the following precautions are being taken:
- All event staff will be vaccinated and all attendees are encouraged to be vaccinated as well.
- Masks are mandatory and this policy will be enforced.
- Hand sanitizer will flow like a river.
- Exhibitor spacing has been adjusted to allow for social distancing.
According to the event website, the event venue, the Las Vegas Convention Center, is a recipient of the Global Biorisk Advisory Council GBAC STAR™ certification by ISSA. This accreditation means the building is meeting the highest standard of cleaning and sanitization protocols.
Remember when Craig Ex of Expert Joints cruised on down for the MJBIZCON? Reminisce with this video!
The BC liquor and cannabis branch is responsible for cannabis distribution and enforcement. Anyone who works in this area is technically a government employee. At the moment, government employees are not required to be vaccinated as a condition of employment. The Provincial Community Safety Unit fits under this category and has been tasked with enforcement. As it stands currently, an unvaccinated CSU officer can ticket a business for violating the vaccine mandate.
Licensed Growers and Producers (LP’s)
Licensed growers and cannabis producers cater to both the recreational and medical community, but, there is a great deal of separation between them and the public.
Instead of personal recreational sales, growers and producers stock the shelves of the licensed provincial retail stores. In the case of medical cannabis use, registered patients make direct orders by phone and pay for them by credit card. Licensed Producers are meant to keep their operations private because it’s a security risk. Because of this, employee vaccine requirements are left to the discretion of each LP.
Provincially licensed retailers provide access to cannabis for recreational users, thus, their business depends on public interaction. Their consumer demographic is basically any and everyone above the legal age. On top of that, when a medical patient cannot access their medicine, provincial retail stores are supposed to be the ‘plan B’ option. Because of this, these stores have a high traffic of people who are immunocompromised. Despite being recreational, they are hugely supported by medical patients.
If any employee of the cannabis industry was going to be required to get a vaccine, it would probably be someone in a provincial retail store. But, according to the mandate, this is not the case. Proof of vaccination is not required to shop at a retail or clothing store, let alone work in one. Like many cannabis businesses, employers will be able to decide what kind of policy makes sense for them.
Gray Market Dispensaries
Believe it or not, there are still a few gray market dispensaries fighting to stay open. Stuck in legal limbo, these places provide access to medical products and services that aren’t available anywhere else. From mild conditions to palliative care, they cater to medical patients, many with compromised immune systems. When it comes to creating a vaccine policy, each of these places will have a lot to think about.
Medical Facility or Retail Store?
Although not yet recognized legally, compassion clubs are medical facilities. According to the public health order, anyone who works in a health care facility will need to be vaccinated by October 12, 2021. In the meantime, any unvaccinated staff member must undergo regular covid testing.
The province is responsible for creating and enforcing recreational cannabis law, but, medical use is not their jurisdiction. In the past, this has caused some serious problems and the provincial community safety unit has been a constant threat for medical compassion clubs. In terms of vaccine policies for businesses, it would seem that dispensaries are in a grey area once again. If the province recognizes an organization as medical, they will expect all the staff to be vaccinated and could see any discrepancies as non-compliance. However, if the business is viewed as retail, a mandatory vaccine policy could be viewed as going beyond the order; leaving the organization alone in defending itself from any potential liability.
If you work in the cannabis industry, it’s up to your employer to read the rules and interpret them to the best of their ability, no matter how hazy they may be. Businesses that do not comply with the public health order could face fines or more, that much is clear.