Union endorses marijuana legalization measure

When about 100 workers at several Oakland medical marijuana businesses voted last month to join United Food and Commercial Workers Local 5, some wondered what the new nexus of labor and cannabis might mean for the Tax Cannabis 2010 legalization measure on November’s ballot.

Today, we might be starting to see the answer. Oakland-based Communications Workers of America Local 9415 – with about 1,700 members in Northern California and Hawaii – endorsed the measure as a job creator.

“The labor movement is coming together behind this initiative,” Local 9415 President Sally Venable said in a news release. “With California’s state budget in disarray, and people out of work, it’s time to harness this incredible revenue stream and create tens of thousands of high quality, union jobs, by controlling and taxing cannabis in California.”

The release cited an estimate by the California Chapter of NORML (the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) that a controlled and taxed cannabis market could create 60,000 to 110,000 new jobs and $2.5 billion to $3.5 billion in new wages for workers each year.

UFCW Local 5’s Dan Rush, who oversees statewide ballots matters for the union, has been assigned to work full time on the Tax Cannabis 2010 campaign. “California is laying off teachers, firefighters, and nurses left and right,” he said in the news release. “Controlling and taxing cannabis will generate billions in revenue to help us save these vital services and jobs.”

Check our print editions this Sunday for my story about how marijuana – long an underground, counterculture province – is taking its place as just as much part of the political and business establishment in California, just as much “The Man,” as traditional corporate interests like power utilities and insurance companies.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Elwood

    “The release cited an estimate by the California Chapter of NORML (the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) that a controlled and taxed cannabis market could create 60,000 to 110,000 new jobs and $2.5 billion to $3.5 billion in new wages for workers each year.”

    And if you believe that, you believe that pigs can fly!

  • This initiative is a trojan horse and is being promoted by special interests. We need to keep big business and big government away from cannabis. Why should ordinary people have yet another tax burden? Someone who makes the personal decision to use cannabis should not be subject to any additional taxation.

    Currently, the majority of medical cannabis is produced by small grow sites and co-ops. If Tax and Control Cannabis passes, expect to see local regulations that favor 200,000sqft corporate grow sites. The Oaksterdam crowd funding this initiative already has substantial influence on the Oakland City Council. It’s obvious that wealthy investors with connections to city and county governments, will set the rules. Expect to see small family-run grows forced out of business.

    Vote NO on Tax Cannabis

    Liberate it, Don’t Tax it! Facebook group: http://bit.ly/duU7hJ

    Prop 215 Author, Dennis Peron says:

    “The tax revenue it will supposedly generate is a mere smokescreen for the kids it will regulate into three, five and seven year state prison sentences. Perpetuating and increasing the hundred million plus tax dollars per year the state already spends policing this harmless plant is wrong yet that is exactly what this proposition does. Surely we can do better than this. How about just legalizing it, getting the state off pot to save lives and real money across the board? Please consider how you can help expose and defeat this misleading “tax and regulate” initiative.”

  • John W

    This should be addressed nationally. I hate drugs. But I’m beginning to think we should de-criminalize all of it, including the hard stuff. Not to generate tax revenue, or because I’m a libertarian on the subject. But because what we do doesn’t work. It has the same perverse effects that Prohibition did, only worse.

  • I am opposed to any taxation or restrictions on cannabis. As a result, I took exception to some of the provisions in Tax Cannabis that seemed restrictive; however, further research has resolved many of my concerns.

    Originally, it was my understanding that the initiative would prohibit smoking in public and smoking in front of a minor. In reality, it seems the initiative allows for future prohibitions of these acts by the legislature, but does not create any new restrictions in this area.

    Similarly, I was under the impression that Prop 19 would create new taxes. Despite it being titled “Tax Cannabis,” it does not actually create any new taxes. Local governments could potentially legalize cannabis without taxation. Under the current system, cities like Oakland have already passed taxes on medical cannabis and Senator Calderon has introduced SBx6 16 which would institute a 41% tax on all dispensary sales across the state. Taxes will continue to be an issue regardless of whether Prop 19 passes.

    Of course, Local governments in California love to pass taxes. My fear was that regulations and taxes would be put in place by city councils that favor big grow corporations and limit personal cultivation. Thankfully, the California Constitution, Article XIll(C), Section 2{b) requires that the electorate approve a general tax by a majority vote. Before the City can establish a new tax for “Cannabis Businesses,” a majority of the electorate must approve the measure. In my opinion, this makes it MUCH more likely that we can prevent “sin” taxes on cannabis at the local level.