A major California labor union that’s been an influential player in legalizing marijuana is opposing a change in state law that would allow for increased access to legal, regulated cannabis—and, subsequently, is now drawing criticism for the stance from its own members.
The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) has supported marijuana legalization in California since 2010, when the union endorsed the ultimately unsuccessful statewide initiative Prop. 19.
Cannabis has been seen as a potential growth opportunity for organized labor, membership of which is on the wane in the United States. At the same time, much work in cannabis is high-turnover and low-wage, where workers could benefit from organization.
UFCW’s Western States Council is also a power player at the state Capitol in Sacramento, where it has helped shape and guide statewide marijuana regulations.
But the group is now opposing a proposed change in the state’s marijuana regulations that is supported by many other pro-legalization players.
Under a rule proposed by the Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC), licensed dispensaries and delivery services would be able to deliver cannabis to areas that have banned brick-and-mortar retail dispensaries.
According to the BCC, the rule change clarifies existing law that allows licensed deliveries to “any jurisdiction within the state.”
Supporters of this change point out that the vast majority of California cities and counties have banned marijuana retail sales, forcing cannabis consumers to patronize the unregulated, criminal market—and contradicting the spirit and intent of the state’s 2016 legalization initiative, which was approved with a solid margin by voters.
Joining UFCW in opposing this change are the League of California Cities, which has for years lobbied to allow localities to ban commercial marijuana activity, and the California Police Chiefs Association, which opposed 2016’s Prop. 64.
Just before the Labor Day weekend, thee three entities launched a website called “Stop Wandering Weed.”
The website features a marijuana-delivery vehicle parked outside of a school and enjoins visitors to sign an online petition to oppose the BCC’s changes.
“Protect our children and schools,” the website declares.
The BCC’s changes “will wipe out safety controls allowing marijuana to be delivered anywhere in California – even to your doorstep,” it continues. “Will your children be home?”
Recreational marijuana is legal in California for anyone 21 and up. Legalization repealed most criminal penalties—but significant penalties remain for anyone providing cannabis to a minor. Licensed retailers who broke the law in such fashion would also face loss of their license.
Meanwhile, in areas that are poorly served by brick-and-mortar dispensaries, illegal market activity continues to flourish.
Jim Araby, the executive director of UFCW’s Western States Council, told Marijuana Moment it was clear that the original intent of Prop. 64 was to allow cities to decide for themselves whether or not they would allow commercial cannabis activity.
Increasing California’s retail capacity by convincing more local governments to overturn bans and allow commercial marijuana activity is also in the union’s interest, but in the meantime, governments “should not be forced into something they’re not ready for,” he said.
Observers say that UFCW’s turn towards more restrictions is meant to protect existing retail outlets—particularly in Southern California, where the union represents three dispensaries.
There are also dispensaries organized with UFCW in Oakland, San Francisco and Sacramento.
“It’s a bit weird to see them laying down with the lion, don’t you think?” asked Sean Donahoe, an Oakland-based consultant and co-founder of the California Cannabis Business Association.
According to Donahoe, at a marijuana-industry conference last year, UFCW’s Araby “committed to me that he would work” to move forward with local licensing.
“A year ago those promises were made, and since then, we’ve seen very little effort,” Donahoe added. “And now we have this—throwing obstacles in front of what the Bureau would like to do.”
And at least one union dispensary operator is baffled by the UFCW’s move, and says that not only does it hurt her operation’s bottom line, but the union’s move happened without her knowledge or input.
“It’s kinda working against our goals,” said Debby Goldsberry, a longtime marijuana activist who is executive director of Magnolia Oakland, a licensed dispensary near the Oakland waterfront.
“At the very, very, very least, brick and mortar dispensaries should be allowed to deliver everywhere,” she told Marijuana Moment. “How else will we compete?”
Google Execs Told Marijuana Jokes To Lighten The Mood After Trump’s Election, Leaked Video Shows
Shortly after the 2016 presidential election, Google executives spoke at an all-hands meeting about the political ramifications of Donald Trump’s victory and fielded questions from employees about the path moving forward.
And to lighten the mood, they also cracked a few jokes about marijuana, which had just been fully legalized in California, the home of Google’s headquarters.
“Let’s face it, most people here are pretty upset and pretty sad because of the election,” Google co-founder Sergey Brin said at the beginning of the meeting. “But there’s another group—a small group—that we should also think about who are very excited about the legalization of pot.”
Employees are heard applauding and laughing in the video, which was leaked to Breitbart by an anonymous source. (The video cannot currently be embedded, but it appears at the top of the page linked above).
“I was asking if we could serve joints outside on the patio, but apparently these things take a little while to take effect,” Brin continued. “It was a huge, huge disappointment.”
“I’ve been bemoaning that all week, I’ll be honest with you.”
Of course, the meeting took on a more serious tone as executives discussed the policy implications of the incoming Trump administration and the role of Google in the modern political landscape. But the meeting didn’t wrap without one final nod to the passage of Proposition 64 in California.
Asked to weigh in on speculation that economist Jefferey Eisenach would be named as the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Google’s chief legal officer Kent Walker brushed it off with his own marijuana joke.
“Anybody who thinks they know of the likely members of the Trump administration is taking premature advantage of Sergey’s favorite California proposition,” Walker said. “Nobody knows.”
Just as a matter of housekeeping, California’s adult-use marijuana law went into effect immediately after the proposition’s passage. So technically speaking, anyone 21 or older who would have consumed cannabis after the election wouldn’t be taking “premature advantage” of the law.
Perhaps to that end, Brin closed the post-election event by telling Googlers that “there’s food and drink on the patio,” but warned them to “be careful of the cookies.”
Workers In These Industries Are Most Likely To Consume Marijuana
It’s become increasingly clear that there’s no single “type” of marijuana consumer. But research has identified certain cultural trends, including a new study that examines the prevalence of cannabis consumption among workers in different industries.
The study, published this month in the International Review of Psychiatry, demonstrates that cannabis use is represented in a wide range of employment backgrounds—and some of the industries where using cannabis is most common might come as a surprise.
Let’s start with the numbers. Here’s a list of industries where workers use the most and least cannabis, which the researchers compiled based on 2013 and 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health data. The survey asks respondents whether they’ve used marijuana at least once in the past year.
|Industry||% marijuana use|
Note: Not all industries are represented in this list, which is limited by the data submitted by NSDUH respondents. Also, the study does distinguish different “job categories,” but not within each specific industry.
The point of the study wasn’t simply to show what kind of workers are using marijuana, but also for what purposes. If a survey respondent reported using cannabis in the past year, their use was then categorized as either medical, recreational or mixed (i.e. some of their cannabis consumption was recommended by a doctor, but not all of it).
You can see that breakdown in the table below, but in general, the study reveals a diversity of use types among different industries. People in construction tend to be mixed-use consumers, for instance, and people in food services tend to skew recreational. It’s difficult to explain these sub-trends without more data, however.
That said, the researchers were especially interested in cannabis use among construction and mining employees.
“One key difference between the user groups is the higher percentage of medical cannabis users in the construction and mining industries,” they wrote. “This is likely due to the higher injury rates in these industries: construction and mining work require physical stamina, often involve irregular schedules, and expose workers to weather, dangerous tools, and equipment.”
The study notes that there’s conflicting research about marijuana use in these industries, with some arguing that frequent use can result in increased workplace injuries and others contending that the therapeutic use of cannabis “addresses pain and other health problems… that often result from work-related injuries.”
That latter point is also consistent with a study released last month showing “evidence that legalizing medical marijuana improved workplace safety.”
Federal Court Rules In Favor Of Worker Rejected For Medical Marijuana Use
A Connecticut woman’s rights under that state’s medical marijuana law were violated when a company refused to hire her on the basis of her legal cannabis use, and a lawsuit seeking damages against her would-be employer may proceed, a federal judge ruled.
In 2016, Katelin Noffsinger filed suit against Bride Brook Health and Rehabilitation Center, a federal contractor, after a job offer was rescinded following a positive test for cannabis on a pre-employment drug test.
Noffsinger had accepted a management-level position with the firm, which then scheduled a drug test. Prior to the test, Noffsinger informed Bride Brook that she was a qualified cannabis patient under Connecticut’s Palliative Use of Marijuana Act, and used the drug—namely, synthetic marijuana pills, consumed in the evening—to treat post-traumatic stress disorder following a 2012 car crash.
After learning of Noffsinger’s patient status, Bride Brook officials debated over email the best way to inform her that she could not be hired because of her marijuana use.
After the positive drug test and the subsequent rejection, Noffsinger filed an employment-discrimination lawsuit in state court. The case was elevated to federal court after Bride Brook used federal drug laws—including federal cannabis prohibition—to justify their actions.
Unlike some other states including California, Connecticut’s medical-marijuana law, passed in 2012, offers specific employment protections for cannabis patients.
Employers don’t have to accommodate cannabis use during work hours or employees who are intoxicated in the workplace, but any off-hours marijuana use by a certified patient following state law is protected.
In court filings, Bride Brook argued that the federal Drug-Free Workplace Act preempted such protections.
Because Bride Brook was a federal contractor, it was required to perform such drug tests—and had the firm still hired Noffsinger after the positive drug test, it would have been “defrauding” the federal government, the firm argued.
In a ruling issued last week, U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey Alker Meyer disagreed.
While Meyer rejected Noffsinger’s requests for summary judgment and attorney’s fees, his ruling means that Noffsinger can now seek monetary damages in a jury trial.
The federal Drug Free Workplace Act requires only that employers make a “good faith effort” to maintain a drug-free workplace, Meyer ruled.
Such efforts include posting warnings about drug use and setting an office policy.
A “zero-tolerance” policy that includes actively testing and then rejecting protected applicants on the basis of a test go above and beyond that threshold, Meyer wrote.
A previous ruling in Noffsinger’s case, also by Meyer, was the first instance in which a federal judge ruled that the federal Controlled Substances Act does not preempt state medical-marijuana laws that provide employment protections.
Other classes of workers, including workers in “safety-sensitive” positions and employees of the federal government, may have to wait for similar protections.