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Illinois Cannabis Smokers will not Receive Vaccine Priority



As part of Illinois’ vaccine schedule, the state has moved into Phase 1B, which allows residents with certain, high-risk medical conditions, including smoking, to get their shots. According to officials, cannabis smokers do not fall into that category despite being at a high risk for respiratory issues.

Officials confirmed cannabis smokers were not part of the current phase of the vaccination program, which began February 25. Officials said they are following guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker led the state’s push to legalize recreational cannabis, but it is still illegal at the federal level. According to the CDC, people who smoke or have smoked cigarettes are at a greater risk for severe illness from COVID-19. 

The American Lung Association has warned that cannabis use may lead to chronic bronchitis, which is known to increase the risk of severe illness from COVID-19. While those with diagnosed cases of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are eligible for the shot, those with undiagnosed, chronic bronchitis will have to wait to receive their vaccine.

“Smoking marijuana has also been linked to cases of air pockets in between both lungs and between the lungs and the chest wall, as well as large air bubbles in the lungs among young to middle-aged adults, mostly heavy smokers of marijuana,” the association said.  

Other than smoking, the phase includes those with cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD, diabetes, heart conditions, immunosuppressed states from a solid organ transplant, obesity, pregnancy, pulmonary disease and sickle cell disease. The new phase allows over three million people to receive their vaccines. The CDC mentioned that about 16 percent of adults in Illinois are cigarette smokers.

Recreational cannabis has been a success in Illinois, with the state reaching over $1 billion in total cannabis sales revenue in 2020.