Workers at Rhode Island medical cannabis dispensary vote to unionize

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Employees at Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, became the first cannabis dispensary workers in the state to unionize, approving the move by an overwhelming vote of 21 to 1.

The employees, which include budtenders, delivery associates and online team members, voted to join United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 328.

The UFCW also represents workers at Ocean State Cultivation Center in Warwick, Rhode Island, who unanimously ratified their first union contract in October 2020.

The UFCW, the major union representing cannabis workers, has been making inroads in the industry, especially in the Northeast, parts of the Midwest and California.

Greenleaf is the second unionized cannabis business in the state of Rhode Island.

UFCW officials said in a news release that several factors led workers at Greenleaf to organize, including a sudden elimination of the company’s employee incentive program and a significant reduction of staff benefits.

Workers also cited their lack of power in decision-making in an industry that is rapidly changing and growing.

Rhode Island is expanding its medical marijuana program and considering legalizing a recreational marijuana market.