Though some California marijuana workers are joining a union, don’t expect medical marijuana bosses to be calling out the “gun thugs” and the Pinkertons anytime soon.

With California voters evenly split on the upcoming initiative to legalize the recreational use of pot, courtship by the 26,000-member United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) could help lend an image of mainstream legitimacy to the pot trade before voters go to the polls in November.

According to the L.A. Times, about one hundred employees at three Oakland medical marijuana businesses became the first pot workers to join a union when they announced Friday that they had become members of UFCW Local 5.

“They want the community to understand them as decent, hard-working people,” said Dan Rush, director of special operations for Local 5.

Richard Lee, owner of a number of medical marijuana businesses and a main sponsor of November’s pot initiative, welcomes the move to organize his employees. “It’s another validation of the idea that the cannabis industry is a legitimate industry that creates taxpaying jobs,” Lee said.

In a further step toward legitimacy, Lee and the Local’s president, Ron Lind, are trying to win an endorsement for the November initiative by the powerful California Labor Federation. “I’m guessing there would be thousands of workers, if it passes,” Lind said.

Lovell Strikes Again

Unsurprisingly, John Lovell, spokesman for various law enforcement groups and über-anti-pot spokesman, sees Lee’s enthusiasm for the organization of his employees a bit differently. “He’s scrambling. He’s trying to do different things. I get that,” Lovell said. “I just don’t think it’s going to be successful.”

According to a Public Policy Institute of California survey taken last week, likely voters in the state now stand at 49% for, and 48% against the initiative. The new move to organize marijuana workers could very well find new support for the initiative from union members in general and members of the UFCW specifically.

So, why does Lovell believe the initiative will fail? Will we voters suddenly remember the wisdom of throwing people in jail for using, growing or selling a substance that is enjoyed by millions and is less harmful than tobacco and alcohol?

Maybe Lovell believes we will consider it a good idea to keep supplying huge revenue streams and guns to violent cartels by continuing to give them the opportunity to black market the stuff.

Perhaps Lovell thinks California voters will choose to show solidarity with those who profit mightily from marijuana prohibition, like prison guards unions, alcohol distilleries and phony “tough on crime” politicians rather than realize the potential of a new tax windfall for our cash-strapped state.

Then again, maybe Lovell is just saying what any good lobbyist for law enforcement would say—and he needs no real explanation.

Originally published at as “California pot workers get smart: Look for the union label”

As always, for the best information on this subject and other drug policy issues, visit the Drug Policy Alliance and NORML

  1. geena says:

    I was briefly watching the news and they mentioned a training school and I’m interested in the school and receiving more information on the training thank u


  2. Russ Buchanan says:

    Hey Geena –

    Glad to be of assistance.

    However, as November 2 approaches, Prop 19–the reefer legalization measure–appears to be going up in, uh, smoke. Make sure you vote that day. Who knows, your vote could be the deciding factor.

    If it does pass, good luck in your new career.



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