Here in the cannabis marketing sector, our job is to shed light on all of the great things happening in the cannabis industry. But we’re also realistic about how this quickly growing industry is impacting its employees.

Despite the notion that all is happy in the world of marijuana, there are always going to be employers who take advantage of their employees. Unfortunately, it’s part of the human experience.

Unions and labor laws can counteract this. That’s why we’re thrilled to see the growing potential of unions for cannabis workers.

The Industry Is Still in Its Infancy

On a sad day in 1970, congress criminalized cannabis. From that day forward, it remains federally prohibited. Even so, the vast majority of states have an approach to cannabis that’s more permissive than the federal regime. (That isn’t difficult though.)

In fact, with the recent addition of Alaska, 24 states now permit the sale of recreational cannabis which are subject to state tax and licensing regimes.

And while the industry promotes itself as progressive and cool, its workers often have a different experience. Employees in each of these sectors face unique challenges. And as the industry grows and evolves, there’s an increased need for oversight to ensure that employees are treated fairly.

There are three distinct sectors:

  1. Agricultural Workers

In 1962, Cesar Chavez set out to organize a union for farm workers because the nature of their work was so dangerous, demanding, and low-paying.

All gricultural work – including that in cannabis – is grueling work. Agricultural workers struggle with musculoskeletal injuries, malnutrition, chronic pain from repetitive tasks, respiratory problems due to exposure to pesticides and other toxins, and mental health disorders from trauma and extreme stress. Unions are vital to ensure the workers can continue to safely work.

  1. Cannabis Processors

Safety is also an issue for cannabis processors. Processing of cannabis material can place workers at serious risk. Steady exposure to cannabis dust can wreak havoc on workers’ health. Especially those with asthma. There need to be oversights in place to protect workers in this environment.

  1. Retail/Budtenders

Even the retail segment needs to protections. According to those working on the retail side, there are many incidents of unpredictable scheduling, disorganized management, and toxic or even abusive bosses. The industry doesn’t have the greatest track record for treating employees very well. In fact, 55% of budtenders leave their dispensary jobs within 12 months. Solidarity will empower this group.

Could Unions for Cannabis Workers Become a Thing?

They already are.

One labor union that’s been active in organizing cannabis workers is the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). For over a decade, they’ve represented tens of thousands of cannabis workers across the US in dispensaries, labs, delivery, kitchens, manufacturing, processing, grow facilities, and more. They’ve gone the extra mile in helping workers gain protection from unfair discipline, and secure better wages and great benefits with a union contract.

For example, Lume Cannabis Co. is the largest cannabis company in Michigan. In 2022, workers at their dispensary in Monroe, Mich., joined UFCW Local 876 and became the first of Lume workers to unionize. In addition, UFCW Local 876 also represents workers from the Authentic 231 cannabis dispensary in Manistee, making them the first cannabis dispensary to unionize in Michigan.

Supporting Healthy Growth in the Cannabis Industry

Establishing unions for cannabis workers makes perfect sense to us and we are all about it.

We’re also all about helping cannabis companies make the most of their public relations and marketing.

So if your cannabis company isn’t getting the attention it needs and deserves, contact us today! Let’s unite.