A Los Angeles labor union representing
grocery workers, healthcare providers and pharmacists has added
employees from a new sector to its ranks.
The local United Food
and Commercial Workers union has organized workers at nearly a dozen
medical marijuana dispensaries across the city, union president Rick
Icaza said Thursday.
Speaking at a news conference, Icaza said
the union's support will help stabilize and lend legitimacy to an
industry that he portrayed as often ostracized. And he vowed to leverage
the "full force" of his union's membership to help keep dispensaries
The fate of the city's medical marijuana industry is currently in question.
January, City Atty. Carmen Trutanich called on the City Council to
implement a ban on dispensaries that would forbid businesses from
selling the drug, but still allow patients who are seriously ill and
their caregivers to cultivate it. He advised city officials to revoke
the current ordinance, which calls for a lottery to choose which
dispensaries to allow, because of a recent court decision that he said
limits what municipalities can do to control dispensaries.
The full council has not yet considered a ban, which has been championed
by Councilman Jose Huizar, whose Eastside district is home to many pot
Huizar has close ties to labor unions. He was endorsed by
the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor during his reelection
campaign last year, and Icaza said the United Food and Commercial
Workers union has also worked on his behalf.
Icaza said the
union, which has about 35,000 members, would pressure city lawmakers to
find a workable ordinance that avoids a total ban on dispensaries.
effort to organize workers has the support of Americans for Safe Access
and the Greater Los Angeles Collective Alliance, two medical-marijuana
advocacy groups that have been fighting the proposed ban. Don Duncan,
the California director for Americans for Safe Access, said the union
may help change opinions about a sector that some have dismissed as
rogue. "I think this brings medical cannabis into the field as an
industry," he said.
Delphine Pregnon, a union member and a
pharmacist, said her industry and the medical-marijuana industry aren't
so different. "Medical cannabis dispensaries are just another place for
people to get their medicine," she said.
Other branches of United Food and Commercial Workers already represent dispensary employees in other parts of the state.
Photo: Marijuana seedlings are photographed inside Absolute Herbal
Pain Solutions in Los Angeles in 2010. Credit: Katie Falkenberg / For