Can Unionizing Save Medical Marijuana in Los Angeles?

 The City of Los Angeles won’t be banning marijuana dispensaries any time soon, if the United Food and Commercial Workers union (UFCW) gets its way.

That’s because workers at 14 of the city’s pot shops have all banded together and formed the “medical cannabis and hemp division” of Los Angeles chapter, according to The Associated Press. The UFCW also represents grocery store workers and people in the health care industry.

“It’s a natural fit,” the national UFCW explained on its blog Friday. “[These] workers will join Local 770 members who work in other retail settings, including grocery stores and pharmacies. And they join medical cannabis workers in other parts of California and in states across the country who have already joined UFCW.”

The UFCW claims it has over 1.3 million members nation-wide, with chapters in all 50 states. Their members are employed by companies like Safeway, Krogers, Pilgrim’s Pride, Tyson Foods, Kraft, Campbell’s, Frito-Lay, Butterball Turkey, Sears, Sak’s 5th Avenue, Macy’s and others.

“This is a positive step towards successfully integrating compassionate care into our system of health care,” Local 770 President Rick Icaza reportedly said at a Friday news conference in Los Angeles.

City councilors in LA are currently considering a blanket ban on medical marijuana dispensaries, following a court decision that limited individual cities’ authority to ban the shops so long as they grow marijuana on site.

But with pot shop workers forming a powerful alliance with one of the state’s largest labor unions, the debate over how LA handles pot shops appears primed to heat up. Where the council will go from here remains anyone’s guess.

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