Marijuana Vote

Yes on Prop 19 (SF Weekly/Photobucket)

More good news for California’s marijuana legalization initiative: UFCW’s Western States Council, representing more than 200,000 union members in the Western US, endorsed Prop 19 yesterday.

“The Western States Council is endorsing Proposition 19 based upon our previous support of the medical cannabis initiative, 1996’s Proposition 215,” George Landers, the council’s executive director, said in a statement. “We view Proposition 19 as an enhanced version of the previous proposition, that creates taxable revenue and produces jobs in agriculture, health care, retail and possibly textile. We further believe that the proposition will deprive narcotics traffickers of a significant source of criminal revenue.”

Ron Lind, international president of the union, and Dan Rush of its Local 5 also spoke out in favor of Proposition 19.

“The marriage of the cannabis-hemp industry and UFCW is a natural one,” said Rush. “We are an agriculture, food-processing and retail union, as is this industry.”

Indeed, there’s a huge potential for UFCW and other unions if marijuana is legalized. UFCW Local 5 has already organized the dispensaries of Prop 19 funder Richard Lee, with more than 100 marijuana dispensary employees as card-carrying UFCW members who will collectively bargain for a contract.

And as Local 5 President Ron Lind notes, it’s not just dispensaries: an entire legal market with legitimate employees will come out of the shadows. People will grow, tend, process, and transport marijuana, in addition to dispensaries that will sell the product. Almost all of this happens under the table now, and there’s a huge potential once marijuana enters a legal market.

Now that the union of 200,000 workers backs marijuana legalization, it remains to be seen if other labor union players will get involved. SEIU was reportedly courted by backers of Washington State’s failed marijuana legalization initiative, but declined to put money down to push it onto the ballot. A key missing piece in California will be the California Labor Federation, the state’s joint table of labor unions that coordinates much of labor’s political moves in the state.

Either way, the UFCW Council’s support is a welcome step forward for Prop 19.