California unions ask state’s Democrats to shut out major cannabis trade group

(This story has been updated with new comments from the executive director of the California Cannabis Industry Association.)

The California Cannabis Industry Association might have a serious political problem in Sacramento.

Representatives from three labor unions – the United Food and Commercial Workers Western States Council, two Teamsters locals and the California Labor Federation – sent a letter to state Democrats on Wednesday asking lawmakers to shut the CCIA out of future political negotiations regarding the marijuana industry “for the time being.”

The letter was sparked by a recent white paper – “Tips for Cannabis Business Owners Negotiating Labor Peace Agreements” – that the CCIA distributed among its members.

In their letter, the unions lambasted the CCIA’s white paper as “a piece of anti-union literature.”

In response, CCIA Executive Director Lindsay Robinson wrote in an email to Marijuana Business Daily that the white paper was not intended to be “anti-union.”

Her organization is one of the largest cannabis industry trade groups in the state and one of the few groups to employ a full-time lobbyist working in Sacramento on various MJ issues.

Labor peace agreements are required under state law for any marijuana company with 20 or more employees, and similar requirements are in place in other states, including New York.

Unions such as the UFCW and Teamsters have also been working to make inroads with the cannabis industry nationally for years and, more often than not, have been political allies, not foes.

The CCIA white paper advises cannabis companies that if their employees decide to unionize, the move could lead to “decreased flexibility and increased costs” for businesses.

‘CCIA not legitimate partner’

That set off alarm bells for the three unions.

“Given CCIA’s posturing on how to engage with organized labor, we ask all members of the Democratic caucus to refrain from engaging with the Association for the time being,” the unions wrote.

“Our organizations do not recognize CCIA as a legitimate partner in the cannabis industry.”

The unions also offered to provide a list of employers and other marijuana trade groups that “have shown a willingness to work collaboratively with labor.”

Those other cannabis trade groups include the Humboldt County Growers Alliance, the Cannabis Distribution Association, the Southern California Coalition (SCC), the California Cannabis Couriers Association and the United Cannabis Business Association, said Matt Broad, legislative advocate for the Teamsters Public Affairs Council.

“These are all groups that we communicate frequently with,” he added, “and we talk about how we can achieve common goals together.”

CCIA chief Robinson stressed that the group’s white paper was not meant to put unions in a negative spotlight.

“We retract any statements that may have been misleading,” she said in her statement. “This document does not reflect priorities in our legislative platform, nor our guiding policies.

“Securing jobs with high wages and exemplary working conditions for everyone in the cannabis industry is a top priority for CCIA, and we look forward to working with Labor Unions to achieve these goals.”

Robinson reiterated those points in a letter shared with Democratic lawmakers on Thursday, a copy of which was obtained by MJBizDaily.

“The moment CCIA was notified of labor’s concerns, we immediately removed this document from our website,” Robinson wrote.

Several Democratic state lawmakers did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Political ramifications

It’s unclear how much this situation might hamper CCIA’s ability to get Democratic legislators on board with further cannabis reforms, such as lowering state marijuana tax rates.

But at the least it will likely prove a distraction, if not a major stumbling block, as political wrangling over the future of the marijuana industry in California continues in the halls of the state capitol.

CCIA’s white paper was an “unforced error” on the political side, said Adam Spiker, the executive director of the Southern California Coalition.

He said he believes CCIA will have to focus on damage control to reestablish a solid working rapport with the labor community, which he said has been a key political ally in years past for MJ companies.

“It’s damaging. There’s no doubt about that,” Spiker said. “(CCIA is) going to have a really significant reparations project on their hands. … Labor has been a partner with local and state government much longer than regulated cannabis.”

Spiker noted that unions were among the stakeholders that pushed lawmakers to pass a medical marijuana framework successfully in 2015, which laid the groundwork for recreational legalization in 2016.

He said unions were also a key factor in getting local approval in Los Angeles for Proposition M in 2017, which set the stage for that city’s legal cannabis market.

John Schroyer can be reached at [email protected]

4 comments on “California unions ask state’s Democrats to shut out major cannabis trade group
  1. Michael Alexander on

    Seems like a new power struggle. Looks dangerous. Hope the unions dont decide they dont want mj one day. I hope they keep in mind this about we the people, not we the bosses.

    Reply
  2. Deedee on

    If only the unions (who want to stick their beak into the cannabis well too) could manage to help with Banking, shipping…. taxes and the ever present political football that politicians manipulate and play with Just to get elected. What other business can take that kind of insecurity and unfairness and survive!? 140 proof vanilla flavored vodka marketed to young people- No problem! Ship it sell it anywhere, but cannabis – which we actually manufacture a form of Inside Our own bodies?? No! I’m sick of the know nothing “committees” deciding the fate of all of us being allowed to use cannabis. Tell the unions to help get the Feds out of our gardens and let us use the Banks! Maybe then the added costs unions will bring will at least move the ball forward. Or we can pay them CASH for dues like we do the water dept., the electricity and our employees. What a %^*##}<€£ mess you made California. It’s disgusting

    Reply
    • Pat on

      Agreed Deedee. Answer: Don’t participate in MCMRSA, period. It’s an INTENDED rat trap for the unwary that want to get “legal.” Now, the unions are angry because they want money from a corrupt licensing scheme that’s from getting legit. But if it’s state law, it must be the legit way to go, right? Wrong. They’re ( the state ) is just as bad as the criminal cartels that preexisted state law. And, they don’t know what they’re doing. All of those making the decisions for the rest of us are just looking for the next best thing for themselves.

      It’s been estimated to be a $14 billion mkt. just in ca. Yet, the state “claims” $3 billion in sales. Hmmm… So, 80% of the mkt is black. Why aren’t the main headlines discussing this more than the licensed? It’s ( the 80% ) the huge elephant in the room. But, these articles keeping using the words “stabilizing” and whole sale prices “rising”, etc. Meanwhile, the black mkt is saying to itself: “Yea, whatever dude!” “Works for me!!” It’s all just soooo… stupid.

      Reply

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