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Monday, November 3, 2014

Big Labor Union Backs Marijuana Legalization In Oregon

Posted By on Mon, Nov 3, 2014 at 3:15 PM

Coming to an Oregon near you? - UFCW
  • UFCW
  • Coming to an Oregon near you?
Tomorrow is a big day for the marijuana movement, with legalization or medical laws on the ballot in Florida, Alaska, and Oregon.

And big labor is doing what it can to prepare for the coming cannabis and hemp industry in America. That includes getting fully and forcefully behind the effort to legalize marijuana in Oregon.

United Food and Commercial Workers — the same labor union that organizes the clerks, butchers and checkout people at your friendly neighborhood Safeway — began organizing marijuana workers in the Bay Area in 2010. That's right: there are union-made joints being rolled and labor doling out buds at a local dispensary near you at this very moment.

Labor would like to do the same up north. UFCW's Portland-area local, Local 555, is by repute the largest private sector union in Oregon, with about 20,000 members. This weekend, the union signaled full support for Measure 91, the question on Oregon's ballot tomorrow that would make San Francisco's spiritual sister the second West Coast state to legalize amounts of marijuana for adults.

Organized workers and legal cannabis: whose side are YOU on?

While only a fraction of San Francisco's medical cannabis dispensaries are union, having labor around gives the movement significant clout that can't be denied. Not long ago, union officials convinced Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom to attend an event in the Sunset District (a place he rarely visited as San Francisco mayor). 

A legal Oregon would be nice, but arguably the biggest fish in the election day weed pond tomorrow is Florida, where a medical marijuana ballot initiative is on the ballot.

Florida, famous for swamp-crazed crooks, alligators, and being extremely important every fourth November, is the country's fourth most populous state with almost 20 million people. If Florida goes medical, over half of Americans will have — at least in theory, if not yet in practice — access to some form of legal marijuana.

That's a big deal, and arguably a much bigger deal than legalization for the 4 million or so people in Oregon. Nonetheless, legal weed is legal weed, and an emerging industry has plenty opportunity for organizing workers. So UFCW — whose national point man on cannabis, Dan Rush, is an Oakland man — is on board.

Being in the weed game is also a perfect segue for UFCW, which already is in pharmacies, liquor stores and other places where "adult consumables" are sold, officials said in a release Sunday.

And, as union president Dan Clay pointed out, Oregon already has an active marijuana industry.

"Money from marijuana sales goes to illegal dealers, gangs and cartels," he said in a statement. "The marijuana sold is untested, unlabeled and unpackaged. It is sold in back alleys, schoolyards and street corners."

"Under Measure 91, the money can go to licensed, trained, background checked, tightly-regulated UFCW 555 union members. Tax money collected will go to essential public services.”

Polls on Monday had Measure 91 right on the cusp, with 52 percent in favor.

If Measure 91 is successful, Oregon would be the third state behind Washington and Colorado to allow adults to have access to some amount of marijuana without a doctor's recommendation. 

And labor officials would have some more joint rollers to bring into the fold. 


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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Bio:
Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.

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