Unionization Efforts Among Medical Marijuana Workers Expand Outside California

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Two of the nation’s largest and most influential unions are quickly carving a niche in the medical marijuana industry – a move that could benefit dispensary owners.

Several employee groups in the sector have unionized under the Teamsters and the United Food and Commercial Workers banners over the past year. Those covered include dispensary employees, marijuana growers and – in the latest effort to unionize – a group of workers at Blue Water Compassion Center in Detroit, Mich.

In the most recent case, the Teamsters will represent nearly two dozen people who work for the center, which provides caregivers and patients with information on medical marijuana, allows them to sample some strains and sells related products.

It follows moves last year by 100 or so industry employees  – including dispensary workers – to form a union under the UFCW in Oakland, Calif., and another 40 growers who hooked up with the Teamsters last fall in the same city.

As far as I can tell, the Blue Water unionization marks the first such effort outside of California.

The number of unionized workers is still miniscule, and there doesn’t exactly seem to be a huge rush by workers to unite in this fashion. But I do think we’ll see a lot more of this in the months to come, and you can bet that employees in other states will look to unionize as well. This would likely impact dispensary owners with multiple locations or large operations the most, as their workers would be more likely to join a union.

One of the benefits of such moves, supporters say, is that it helps further legitimize the business. It’s a good point. Even if you’re not exactly thrilled with the prospect of having your workers join a union – which could raise costs and add another layer of complications to your business – you should welcome these developments for that reason alone.

The industry needs all the help it can get when it comes to gaining credibility with the public, and this is a good step in that direction.