Essential employees in the cannabis industry are not seeing relief through the Senate proposed Heroes Fund, providing an additional $13 and hour to frontline workers. Cannabis dispensaries are deemed essential at state level. They serve medical cannabis patients during the pandemic and face the same exposure as a grocery store clerk. While the danger is the same, dispensary workers’ exclusion from relief efforts by the Federal government is inevitable.
Democratic Senators proposed the Heroes Fund on April 7, 2020 to help with economic relief efforts. The proposal is “a $25,000 pandemic premium pay increase for essential frontline workers, equivalent to a raise of an additional $13 per hour from the start of the public health emergency until December 31, 2020.” Here’s where things get complicated.
Exactly what is an essential frontline worker? The motion reads that, “The definition of essential frontline workers for purposes of both the premium pay increase and the recruitment-
Dispensary workers perform the vital function of providing medical attention to a large sector of the population. They are required to wear PPE and follow all COVID-19 guidelines. The health and safety of these workers are on the line everyday. They are also heroes. “We owe these heroes… more than just words of gratitude: we must make sure they are paid what they deserve," said Senator Udall in a press release. Udall is one of the Democrats initiating the proposal.
In a recent interview with David Turner and David White, owners of Organtica, the subject of the measure was one of almost certain exclusion. According to Mr. Turner, “It’s going to come down to exactly what the criteria is for eligibility and who’s deciding it.” “We are an essential business, because basically if our patients didn’t have access to their medicine it would be a real problem,” said David White. Organtica owners respect and value their employees and are ready to apply for the relief if given the option.
Essential workers should be rewarded for their efforts. The medical cannabis industry is legal in New Mexico and should not be excluded. While $13 an hour might not save one from exposure, it would definitely pay the medical bills. Medical cannabis workers are on the frontline. It seems David Turner said it best, “It is essential. It is medicine.”