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Marijuana leaves.
Trying to legalize an entire industry so you can unionize it? That's some long-term political thinking right there, and it's what the United Food and Commercial Workers is doing around medical marijuana. Unfortunately, at the same time the union is rapidly organizing marijuana dispensaries, the federal government is rapidly shutting them down—after all, no matter what some states or cities say, it's still an illegal drug as far as the feds are concerned.

For instance, just weeks after workers at 14 Los Angeles dispensaries joined the union last spring, several federal agencies raided and shut down businesses in Oakland, putting around 100 union members out of work. The idea was, in part, that medical marijuana businesses could show that they were reputable and responsible, following labor laws and in other ways legitimate members of the business community, by letting their workers unionize. The UFCW wasn't going to be working with bosses who didn't have their acts together. And the UFCW could provide increased political access and ground game for legalization efforts. As Molly Redden reports at The New Republic, the UFCW has put thousands of volunteers on the ground in legalization campaigns or fighting medical marijuana bans and that increased political access really has come through at the state level. The problem is, that's not the whole story:

To an extent, this loose partnership has functioned well at the state level. The UFCW has been an unseen force in nearly every big push to pass marijuana-friendly laws and ordinances in Western states like California and Colorado. But federal crackdowns on pot retailers remain a constant bugbear, threatening to dry up one of the UFCW’s best streams for new membership. And while unions aren’t afraid to stare down large employers, they’re outmatched by the federal government. “We, through our international union back in D.C., are going to bend anybody’s ear who is going to listen to us about changing federal law,” said John Hughes, a cannabis division rep who works with the Local 5. “But we can’t stop the DOJ.” And when the Justice Department does come after marijuana workers, “having the union there doesn’t protect them at all.”
Because of that, the number of unionized marijuana workers has gone from over 2,000 to around 500, even as legalized medical marijuana gains steam in the states.

If the federal government passes legislation allowing states to pass medical marijuana laws, though ... suddenly, the UFCW's hard work could pay off in a big way in a new, unionized industry that Walmart won't be undercutting anytime soon.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Thu Feb 07, 2013 at 02:42 PM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions, DKos Cannabis Law and Drug War Reform, and Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The war on workers and ... (18+ / 0-)

    ...the war on (some) drugs working hand in glove. When are we gonna wise up? (Rhetorical)

    Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

    by Meteor Blades on Thu Feb 07, 2013 at 02:57:43 PM PST

    •  Sounds like the unions (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      KenBee

      are wising up right nowish.  Finally.

    •  Except marijuana is not a drug (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Notreadytobenice, isabelle hayes

      Marijuana is not even a variety of cannabis plants like hemp. It's only a colloquial slang term used currently to describe the dried leaves and female flowers of the varieties of cannabis plants which produce significant concentrations of the cannabinoid Dronabinol (THC) in the resins.

      The federal prohibition against the entire genus of cannabis plants should have ended when the only scheduled drug, both synthetic and organic THC, was authorized for medical use by the FDA and removed from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act by the DEA over two years ago.

      Really don't mind if you sit this one out. My words but a whisper -- your deafness a SHOUT. I may make you feel but I can't make you think..Jethro Tull

      by RMForbes on Thu Feb 07, 2013 at 05:22:55 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  It makes me extremely (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      goobop, tb mare, Ginsu

      angry that the Feds will not touch the big banksters who destroyed our economy, but try to go against the will of the people, in there inane war against marijuana. Obama's orders i'm afraid.

      "America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between" Oscar Wilde

      by angry hopeful liberal on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 04:51:01 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Right now (6+ / 0-)

    It's more profitable for both sides of the law to keep drugs illegal. On one side are the cartels that don't mind taking losses of 5-10%. That's way less than taxes and no damn OSHA to worry about. On the other side are cops(RICO and job security) lawyers, and the prison industry. We have to find a way to make it more profitable when legal. It will be tough. There are a lotta vested interests who want the status quo.  

    •  You beat me to it (7+ / 0-)

      Private prison operators give a lot of money to Republicans.

      Prison guard unions give a lot of money to Democrats.

      The drug war will never end.

      Cancer patients should start giving NFL luxury box tickets to congressmen if they want anything to change.

    •  Medical MJ industry shot itself in the foot when (0+ / 0-)

      they oppo$$ed 2008 CA legalization. If it had passed, things would have been different today. And with 4 more years of President Obama it would have been "facts on the ground" by 2016.

      They also shot a lot of regular folks as well. I have no sympathy for the CA Medical MJ industry. They are a bunch of greedy bastards just like the pharmy's and cartels.

      •  growers in norcal famously opposed it (0+ / 0-)

        not all, many good family farmers there who do the right thing, but there are plenty of libertarian I got mine, fuck you types who actually helped fund that last defeat.

        Remember that when you hear of some big pot bust in the woods there, but the Feds have been only recently going after Mendocino countie's medical MJ legal registered zip tie grower's list.

        Mendo is fighting back, but the dems are way off on this..attacking medical MJ looks to be some career path for DOJ wannabees.

        This machine kills Fascists.

        by KenBee on Thu Feb 07, 2013 at 09:44:22 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  You know a lot more about CA MJ politics... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          KenBee

          than I do. Didn't even remember was prop 19 in 2010 not 2008 that lost because of MMJ cartel. Remember sending the proponents a few bucks (from here in Boston) but thought it was 2008 (how time flies).

          Was surprised nothing on ballot in 2012? Looking at web news seemed like that there was a lot of disorganization (as well as those greedy bastards).

          The best bet now is support and vigilance for Colorado and Washington MJ "facts on the ground" for next 4 years but ain't California!

          The only that keeps Massachusetts MJ decriminalization/MMJ moving forward is they won by almost 2/3 of vote.
          Politicians don't want to support going backwards because of fear of citizen backlash. They are sneaky bastards and use vehicles like the Health Commission.

          2 feet of snow coming here in Puritan Country.

  •  I know a good number of people who work (5+ / 0-)

    at dispensaries here in Oakland.  None of them have been unionize, and the dispensaries have all been shut down at least once leaving various people out of work.  It's not just that side of the industry that could use unionization.  The production end could do with it as well.

    •  50 florida immigrants recently arrested (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      AoT

      only one trimmer from norcal...no 'owners' of course.

      All from outside the us...and day laborers, hired and kept almost in slavery conditions way back in the hills.

      very creepy the whole thing.

      This machine kills Fascists.

      by KenBee on Thu Feb 07, 2013 at 09:46:25 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Oh, PBO... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    isabelle hayes
    I support same-sex marriage, but my hands are tied when it comes to
    a natural resource that could do much more good than harm.
  •  totally disagree (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annieli

    We need to support research so that FDA approved cannabinoid drugs can be further developed.  One is already on the market, Marinol.  The Canadians have a nose spray that should be available here soon.

    Anything SMOKED is not healthy-chronic respiratory problems afflict those who use mj regularly.  

    CA "medical" mj laws are a joke-the most common users are young adult males.

    •  Totally disagree with you (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ginsu

      Synthetic cannabinoids have been shown to be less effective than pot for pain relief and other medical uses.  Plus, as synthetics, who knows what harmful side effects they might have over years of use?  And the synthetics are certainly more profitable for that sector of organized crime called big pharma.

      It's easy enough to avoid the chronic respiratory problems, just eat it instead of smoking it.  And why is it any worse for me to smoke the weed than tobacco, which is far more damaging and totally legal?  And, as an adult, if I decide to take that risk, what fucking business does the gubmint have to "protect" me from myself?

      I agree that medical mj laws are a joke.  Marijuana should be legalized on the same basis as alcohol nationwide.  Then, we'll stop the insane persecution of both recreational and medical users as well as ones like me who use it for both reasons  

      See the children of the earth who wake to find the table bare, See the gentry in the country riding out to take the air. ~~Gordon Lightfoot, "Don Quixote"

      by Panama Pete on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 05:15:50 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  First of all.... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Panama Pete, Ginsu

      It can always be ingested. Second, they're my lungs to mess with. Third, there are bongs and vaporizers.

      Also, answer this: is there a good reason why alcohol and cigs are legal yet pot isn't???

  •  Look for the union label ... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jck, Panama Pete, goobop

    My fear is that Monsanto or Park seed or American Tobacco will move in and take over the industry.

    the Republican brand is totally bankrupt.

    by vlyons on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 04:28:10 PM PST

  •  Some history - Prohibition in Maryland (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eric Nelson, jck, Panama Pete, bewild

    Albert Ritchie was elected governor of Maryland in 1919, just as Prohibition was being enacted, and was regularly reelected until 1935.  He ordered that Maryland authorities , including the police, would do nothing to enforce prohibition, if the Feds wanted to enforce it, fine, but the State of Maryland would do nothing to help.  During Prohibition, speakeasies were all but open, advertising that they were serving booze by displaying an electric light in the form of a red crab on their shop windows - for the speakeasies had nothing to fear from local police.  For it's refusal to enforce Prohibition, Maryland became known as the "Free State."  (In public school, they taught me Maryland's nickname was the Free State but not why).  

    I see much of this history being repeated now with marijuana.

    "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals, now we know that it is bad economics." Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jan. 20, 1937

    by Navy Vet Terp on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 04:35:57 PM PST

  •  Better yet...hemp ....for a bazillion purposes. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jck, Panama Pete

    Currently I think that the fossil fuel and corn industries are fighting it ...

    "I think it is much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be wrong." Richard Feynman

    by leema on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 04:44:17 PM PST

  •  Too easy to freelance (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jck, Mayfly, Panama Pete, bobtmn
    the UFCW's hard work could pay off in a big way in a new, unionized industry that Walmart won't be undercutting anytime soon.
    Walmart may not undercut it but the smalll growers sure will. Its too easy to grow this stuff to build a whole union movement out of it.
    I think when legalized you'll be able to buy it from your neighbor or friend who grows it---keep the whole captalistic tructure out of it----rather than going to a dispensary where it is expensive.
    And that goes for those who think taxing it will do wonders. People are going to dodge the tax, same as theyr dodging the fuzz now.  Small growers are real good at ignoring laws now.

    Happy just to be alive

    by exlrrp on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 04:50:02 PM PST

  •  My only criticism of President Obama (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jck

    Lighten up on smokers!

    "The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason." - Thomas Paine

    by shrike on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 04:50:09 PM PST

    •  Not my only criticism (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bewild

      Stop offering to weaken/destroy the social safety net and prosecute the frigging Wall Street criminals.  Stop abridging and curtailing our civil rights in the name of the "War on Terror."  Close down Gitmo Bay NOW and withdraw ALL of our forces from Afghanistan and Iraq.  And yes, stop persecuting those of us who enjoy a bowl now and again.

      My vote was cast far more against Mittens than for Obama.  But the lesser of 2 evils is still evil.

      See the children of the earth who wake to find the table bare, See the gentry in the country riding out to take the air. ~~Gordon Lightfoot, "Don Quixote"

      by Panama Pete on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 05:41:02 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  socialize the damn industry - have state farms (0+ / 0-)

    and dispensaries only in hospitals. eliminate the possibility that it will get corporatized and tell the Feds to screw themselves.

    Warning - some snark above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ "We're like a strip club with a million bouncers and no strippers." (HBO's Real Time, January 18, 2013)

    by annieli on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 04:50:51 PM PST

  •  So the Republicans and a good number of (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jck, Eric Nelson, Panama Pete

    anti-choice Democrats are fine with states right in the case of abortion but not legalization of pot.  Some consistency.

    "In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican." - H. L. Mencken

    by SueDe on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 04:52:31 PM PST

  •  An excuse for Obama to be a union-buster (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jck

    I wonder how many campaign contributions came with this string attached.

    See the children of the earth who wake to find the table bare, See the gentry in the country riding out to take the air. ~~Gordon Lightfoot, "Don Quixote"

    by Panama Pete on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 04:53:53 PM PST

  •  Legalize it already. n/t (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mayfly, Eric Nelson, Panama Pete, Ginsu
  •  Frequent GA news: death from synthetic marijuana-I (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Panama Pete

    cringe.  Real organic marijuana is fairly benign. The synthetic stuff is poison.

    If the process for fermenting grapes, etc. to produce wine had just recently been discovered--wine would now be illegal in the US.

    Our Puritan strain is more a curse than otherwise.

    Fiscal conservative: a Republican ready to spend $5 to save a dime--especially if that dime is helping a non-donor.

    by Mayfly on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 05:05:15 PM PST

  •  Representative Earl Blumenauer (D) has a Plan (0+ / 0-)

    A Federal Marijuana Policy for This Century

    Representative Blumenauer has included a very interesting brief history of marijuana and its outlawing process in his 'Path Forward' policy recommendations (pdf):
    A Path Forward - Rethinking Federal Marijuana Policy - pdf
    Very good planning ahead by the unions:

    If the federal government passes legislation allowing states to pass medical marijuana laws, though ... suddenly, the UFCW's hard work could pay off in a big way in a new, unionized industry that Walmart won't be undercutting anytime soon.
  •  The perfect solution. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Panama Pete

    Marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, yet we still allow assault weapons to get into the wrong hands and kill innocent school children. Let's see. Hmmm. Let's give out one lid of pot for every gun that's voluntarily turned in and see what happens. People getting mellow. Tempers not as easily flared. A case of irrepresible giggles comes on. MUCHIES!! (Oooh, yeah!! This pepperoni pizza is marvelous!) As Donald Fagen said back in 1982, "What a beautiful world this will be..."

    Makes me wonder how many of our congresspeople are still in the back pockets of the beer and booze companies. Forget how marijuana could actually help people in a medical way. Naaahh, that's not important.  We just can't allow this evil weed to work its medical wonders if there's any chance the bottom line at Coors and Jim Beam could be affected by it.

    Completely counterintuitive!

  •  I watched a documentary on the (0+ / 0-)

    medical mj idustry in CA last year. I think it was on CNBC. They pretty much showed doctors giving out prescriptions for a hang nail. It seemed to me that they were thumbing their noses at the feds

    •  who cares why a doc gives a Rx for mj? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      goobop, Ginsu

      I sure don't care.  Why should anyone be so concerned that people who have Rx for Medical mj may not be sick enough?  Who are we to judge?    Shall we keep MJ illegal and continue the Drug war and allow people to suffer needlessly because some people might enjoy mj for recreational reasons?
      I never could understand the reasoning.  What if we were to keep all pain relievers off the market because some people abuse/enjoy them too much...just imagine the suffering that would cause.
      We are such a judgemental society.  Maybe it is that Puritan strain, but it still infuriates me when ever I encounter it.  

  •  Here is link re fake marijuana in Georgia (0+ / 0-)

    Fiscal conservative: a Republican ready to spend $5 to save a dime--especially if that dime is helping a non-donor.

    by Mayfly on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 06:21:34 PM PST

    •  The link only connects.... (0+ / 0-)

      ....to a general Politifact page, not the article.

      But if it's about "fake marijuana," that's a different animal than pharmaceuticals like Marinol.  This is something you can buy in a head shop and you smoke it like pot.  I tried it -- once.  It made my heart race and was like taking too much No Doz.  No thanks, that's bad stuff.

      My concern with the pharmaceutical THCs is that they may have unintended long-term side effects, as do so many other pharmaceuticals.  The main beneficiaries of Marinol are the drug companies; a way they can profit from something that would otherwise be difficult for them to monopolize.

      See the children of the earth who wake to find the table bare, See the gentry in the country riding out to take the air. ~~Gordon Lightfoot, "Don Quixote"

      by Panama Pete on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 07:30:03 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Pipe dreams (0+ / 0-)

    There is no way that a unionized industry can be formed around growing a common weed unless the power of the government is brought to bear to make sure that no one can grow it without permission.   That's why Laura writes about medical MJ rather than legal recreational MJ.

    MJ can be grown locally, in warehouses and garages.  It is a perfect example of an industry that should be decentralized.  

    Pot could be independently tested and certified for purity and THC content.     The industry does not need to be regulated or unionized in order to produce a quality product.

    "Medical" MJ is just a step towards full legalization.  IF the medical MJ'ers try to fight full legalization just to control their market, profits or union jobs, they should lose.

    MJ should be legal.  People should be able to grow and nurture their own favorite strains and "heirloom" varieties.  It should be regulated just like Tomatoes or Tofu.    

    Religion gives men the strength to do what should not be done.

    by bobtmn on Sun Feb 10, 2013 at 06:49:14 AM PST

  •  Glad to see (0+ / 0-)

    A cannabis reform article making the front page here. This ought to be a higher profile issue among progressives.

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