Budtenders Become Essential Service Workers During COVID-19

In a remarkable departure from how the cannabis industry was treated in the past, British Columbia’s cannabis workers have been deemed essential service workers during the COVID-19 crisis. This means that BC’s cannabis stores are encouraged to keep operating as long as they maintain physical distancing measures and put enhanced sanitation procedures in place.

According to the Ministry of Public Safety, essential services are those businesses and services that are “essential to preserving life, health, public safety and basic societal functioning.” They are “the services British Columbians rely on in their daily lives.”

British Columbia joins several other provinces and states, including Ontario, Quebec, and California in declaring cannabis dispensaries an essential service.

Unlike in the past, when you could be arrested and jailed for selling or buying cannabis products, the work of Budtenders is now on par with other front-line essential workers like grocery and pharmacy workers. They are performing an essential service that helps to maintain some normalcy during this crisis and provides needed medicine for medical cannabis patients.

Medical cannabis advocates have pointed out how important it is to keep the legal market open during the pandemic, as if dispensaries close medical patients may need to seek cannabis from illegal underground sources. These sources do not have the added scrutiny of the legal market in terms of health and safety protections, and it is difficult to imagine how physical distancing could be maintained for vulnerable medical cannabis patients.

In recognition for their work in helping to flatten the curve on the Covid-19 pandemic, unionized budtenders at Clarity Cannabis are receiving a $2/hour “hero” pay boost and a secure return-to-work benefit. Budtenders also have access to additional child care benefits granted to front-line workers.

UFCW 1518 fights for fairness for over 23,000 union members across BC and the Yukon. Click here for information about joining our Cannabis division, or you can connect with an organizer to learn more.