Just a few years ago, most Cannabis markets in the United States were completely illegal. Now, not only are states legalizing adult use at a rapid clip, but employees in the licensed industry are beginning to organize and form unions. The latest effort comes from San Diego, where employees at Southern California dispensary chain March and Ash have formed a union with UFCW Local 135, ratifying the region’s first locally-formed Collective Bargaining Agreement. While not the first Cannabis union contract in California, its broad support from employees signals a greater tide of unionization to come in the industry.
Around 150 workers are included in the union agreement, which covers three of the chain’s four locations. The organizing effort and subsequent contract, which took over two years to organize and was spearheaded by management, is intended to “serve as a blueprint for the industry,” says March and Ash general counsel and partner, Bret Peace.
Included in the union contract – and notable for employees who, up until not long ago, were more worried about getting raided by the police than 401ks – is subsidized childcare, paid vacation, education funding, compassionate disciplinary procedures, guaranteed wage increase, and merit bonuses, and other bells and whistles.
Interestingly, the chain’s original location in the Mission Valley area of San Diego isn’t included. When asked, management, workers and union representatives all credited the unique culture in the Cannabis industry for creating skepticism, along with the fact that the effort was management-led.
“We’re not even necessarily coming from a point where people even know what a union is,” says Peace. “[The employees] are still just getting used to working in a legal industry.” Those factors caused the Mission Valley staff to hold off, but it is expected that the location will eventually join the contract down the line.