The days of surreptitiously smoking a joint driving down a back road with the windows wide open are long gone. Jeff Sessions vociferously disapproves of legalized marijuana and Donald Trump openly despises California, but despite all that, California, a state with one of the highest minimum wages and the most unionized employees across industries, has labor unions that are looking to grow in the marijuana field, figuratively and literally — and they’re fighting with one another for the privilege. Los Angeles Times:
The United Farm Workers, co-founded by iconic labor leader Cesar Chavez, says that organizing an industry rooted in agriculture is a natural fit, and that growers could label their products with the union’s logo as a marketing strategy.
“If you’re a cannabis worker, the UFW wants to talk with you,” national Vice President Armando Elenes said.
But United Food and Commercial Workers, which represents grocery store employees, meat packers and retail workers, registered its intent to organize cannabis workers across the country.
“We would hope they respect our jurisdiction,” UFCW spokesman Jeff Ferro said.
Teamsters organizer Kristin Heidelbach said there’s no need for unions to battle each other. There will be plenty of workers needing representation as small cannabis businesses run by “happy stoner” types give way to large pharmaceutical corporations, she said.
And marijuana is big business, make no mistake about that.
Cannabis in California already is a $22-billion industry, including medical marijuana and a black market that accounts for most of that total, according to UC Davis agriculture economist Philip Martin. Medical marijuana has been legal since 1996, when California was the first state to approve such a law.
Labor leaders estimate recreational pot in California could employ at least 100,000 workers from the north coast to the Sierra Nevada foothills and the San Joaquin Valley, harvesting and trimming the plants, extracting ingredients to put in liquids and edibles, and driving it to stores and front doors.
And there’s nothing like a union to cover your back, as one already unionized worker found it recently.
After recently entering the marijuana industry, Los Angeles resident Richard Rodriguez said one sticky traffic stop three months ago converted him into a “hard core” Teamster. He’d never been in a union until this year.
Rodriguez said an officer pulled him over while he was delivering a legal shipment of pot. He was accused of following too closely behind a semi-truck and was detained for 12 hours, he said.
A union lawyer stepped in, and Rodriguez said he was released without being arrested or given a ticket.
Happy stoners step to the side, corporate America here we come. And it’s not too extravagant a speculation that despite Sessions’ disapproval, Trump would probably love to add a strain of marijuana to his “brand” since the pursuit of profit is the man’s one and only guiding principle. It will be interesting to see Washington’s reaction to the newest cultural wave coming from California.