Article by Bill Swindell, The Press Democrat
One of the biggest impacts of Proposition 64, which legalized marijuana, will likely be felt by the estimated 300,000 to 350,000 workers in the California cannabis industry.
Whether they are farmworkers, trimmigrants who each year head to Humboldt County to process the crop, or retail clerks helping to legally sell various forms of the plant, there are workplace issues to be resolved.
Cannabis is still illegal at the federal level, listed as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act. But the fact is many employees will now be able to come out of the shadows and may find a more worker-friendly environment evolving in this multi-billion-dollar industry, analysts said.
Both driving and benefiting from the legalization of pot is organized labor. The marijuana industry represents one of the biggest opportunities for unions in decades, analysts and organizers said, as their ranks have shriveled over decades under conservative policies and a concentrated effort by business groups, such as implementation of so-called right-to-work laws.
In 1983, union membership was at 20.1 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Last year, it was 11.1 percent.
“These are workers trying to do an honest day of work for an honest day of pay,” said Jeff Ferro, the director of Cannabis Workers Rising, an organizing effort by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union. It has organized thousands of medical marijuana workers in eight states and the District of Columbia.