Workers at 10 LA medical marijuana dispensaries unionize

Ryan Fonseca/KPCC

Union members Iila Tiare Alii, Delphine Pregnon, Aryn Adams and Adam Daniels stand with the new logo for the Medical Cannabis and Hemp Workers division of the UFCW.

Ryan Fonseca/KPCC

Rick Icaza, president of UFCW Local 770 in Los Angeles, talks with KPCC reporter Shirley Jahad following the announcement that medical marijuana dispensary workers are joining the United Food and Commercial Workers union, Thursday, March 22, 2012.


Some local medical marijuana workers are unionizing. The head of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor says the union may help cut through the legal smoke surrounding the dispensaries.

The United Food and Commercial Workers Union has created a new unit called the Cannabis and Hemp Workers division. Workers at 10 medical marijuana dispensaries in L.A. have joined.

Rick Icaza, who heads the LA County Federation of Labor, says the union label provides a certain validity.

"We want consumers to understand they can go to legitimate operations and safely have access to what they need," Icaza says. "We’re going to negotiate good health and welfare and hopefully a pension, and make it a profession rather than thinking people are getting crack from some crack house."

The whole issue of medical marijuana has been in a thicket of legal weeds. Federal law bans the dispensaries. A voter-approved state law allows them.

Locally, the L.A. City Council has spent years grappling to regulate and zone the shops. Now the city attorney is moving to ban the shops entirely, while allowing patients to grow their own at home. In the meantime, advocates say, in actuality, more than a thousand dispensaries are up and running.

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