Topics: Blog

Cannabis: Protecting Workers in a Growing Industry

It is well past time for California to approve patient and worker protections and other basic regulations in the cannabis industry. Since voters approved Proposition 215 nearly 20 years ago, the medical cannabis industry in California has been the “Wild West.”

Polls show that California voters support greater regulation in the cannabis industry. But they also show that many people believe that such regulations are already in place. AB 266 is about getting what workers ranging from hairdressers to pharmacists already have—basic licensing, certification and oversight.

We believe consumer safety and worker’s rights go hand in hand, and that stronger regulations will make the public safer. Testing and labeling standards are needed to protect patients; empowered workers are needed to enforce these standards. Workers cannot look out for their patients if they have no avenue for recourse against unscrupulous employers.

The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) is the only union representing cannabis workers in California, with 1,200 workers under contract. Our union is also home to cannabis workers in Colorado, Massachusetts, Michigan, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia.

Cannabis workers are taking the lead in pushing for regulations that will enhance the public safety and bring needed guidelines to the growing cannabis industry. Through collective bargaining, workers are ensuring better training, less turn over, and better pay and benefits. UFCW members in the cannabis industry work predominantly in dispensaries, coffee shops, bakeries, patient identification centers, hydroponics stores, and growing and training facilities.

In 2013, we convinced the National Labor Relations Board to take a cannabis workers’ case for the first time. This case involved a dispensary that was exposing patients to pesticides and retaliating against workers who tried to unionize. Through our efforts and that of dedicated dispensary employees, the company was forced to reform their safety practices.