Orange County Gets First Unionized Medical Marijuana Dispensary

Orange County Gets First Unionized Medical Marijuana Dispensary

The debate over medical marijuana has moved from controversial, and even contentious, arguments over whether to allow it at all to a much more generally accepted idea. Now the debate focuses on more intricate details in terms of who can use it and how it can be grown, distributed, and sold. Basically, it’s become an issue that’s bordering on universal acceptance with people only debating the specifics. That notion is reinforced by the recent unionization of employees in the industry, and now a shop in Orange County, CA, can be added to that list.

According to the Los Angeles Times, South Coast Safe Access, a dispensary in Santa Ana, has signed a collective bargaining agreement with United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Local 324, which went into effect on Monday, March 8.

In total, the city of L.A. has 26 unionized medical marijuana dispensaries. Proponents believe that the addition of the first one in Orange County is just adding to the industry’s credibility. In fact, UFCW Local 324 executive vice president Rick Eiden believes this sort of expansion and inclusion fits in perfectly with the way the world is heading.

“[Unionizing dispensaries] really coincides with the work we’ve done in the retail drug industry,” Eiden said. “Employees interact with the patients in determining their needs and working on a sensible prescription for what their needs are.”

The minimum wage is $10 an hour in California, but the 20 workers at South Coast Safe Access will work for no less than $13.50 an hour and receive employer-paid medical benefits as well as employer contributions to a retirement pension. The union organization is already in talk with other marijuana shops about similar plans.

As of last year, 23 states and the District of Columbia legally allowed medical marijuana, and that number could soon rise as more states take notice of moves like this. In addition to the benefits these deals could have in moving the medical marijuana industry forward, Eiden thinks it could help the labor union industry too.

“Here in California, we’ve maintained our numbers in the labor movement,” Eiden said. “But we haven’t seen large numbers of growth in decades.”

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