The cannabis industry is taking off in many states where it has been legalized for recreational purposes. Some unions see opportunity in the new industry, which could potentially create tens of thousands of new jobs.
Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union/United Food and Commercial Workers Local 338 Political and Communications Director Nikki Kateman joined the AWF Union Podcast to explain what the cannabis industry can do for the American economy. She also discussed working during a pandemic and how their union’s workers were treated.
Growing the cannabis industry
Kateman laid out a slate of reasons to expand the cannabis industry, and hopes the workers in this field will seek union representation. The future is huge, as the process of growing, harvesting and distributing cannabis can generate thousands of jobs.
The industry faces an uphill battle due to years of negative perception and a federal government that has avoided action on the issue. Marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, but more states are legalizing its use.
Kateman believes one of the largest challenges to legalize marijuana will be allowing the product to be moved across state lines, as the distribution of cannabis from state-to-state will create good-paying trucking jobs. She said the solution is to legalize marijuana at the federal level, which will create some pushback from states who currently criminalize the drug.
The reward for cities and states is twofold, she explained. The product is heavily taxed in places where it is legal, which generates funds for the state, county and local governments. The jobs associated with the industry will also create tax revenue and help residents support themselves and their families.
Working through a pandemic
Essential workers became one of the central themes of the COVID-19 pandemic. Grocery workers, gas station attendants and other low-wage workers were suddenly called heroes, but have not seen much of a financial benefit.
Kateman said the pandemic showed workers why union representation is important. Non-union workers were often left with no personal protective equipment or were left to fend for themselves, while union workers were often better protected.