New York Union Hopes To Bring Cannabis Workers On Board

If New York State moves to legalize recreational marijuana in 2019, one labor advocate wants to see cannabis workers unionized.

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) hopes to fold the "many thousands of workers" who will be involved in New York's purported legal cannabis industry into their ranks. And based on the size of that prospective workforce, unionizing the industry could add a lot of muscle to the labor movement in New York.

"It's going to be big," RWDSU president Stuart Appelbaum told New York Post, adding that his organization will ensure that employees in the new industry are treated right. "We think the best way to create decent jobs is through unionization."

Applebaum hopes RWDSU's success in representing New York's several hundred medical marijuana workers will encourage employees in the recreational space to sign on. He says NY medical marijuana workers earn $27 an hour, and have excellent healthcare coverage. RWDSU also has an affiliation with United Food and Commercial International Union, which represents tens of thousands of marijuana works in other states.

Adding cannabis workers would also complement the union's current members, which includes employees at sex shops as well as music stores. "It's sex, drugs and rock and roll!" Applebaum joked.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo put legalizing recreational cannabis on his platform when he ran for re-election to office last month. In an address from mid-December Cuomo said he was putting legalization on his list of top priorities for the new year—though he has yet to outline what exactly this may look like.

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President Trump's 2020 budget request includes a loophole that would let Washington, DC finally open up dispensaries for recreational cannabis. Although DC voters passed a ballot initiative to legalize recreational cannabis back in 2014, Congress has used its power over the nation's capital to prevent it from selling cannabis for recreational use. Right now, local dispensaries can only sell medical marijuana to registered patients thanks to Congress, which controls spending in the District of Columbia.

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