Yea yea … last week it was drug abuse and addiction. This week it’s marijuana. Trust me, I’ve taken my share of ribbing around the halls of HRE for having seemed to take on the “drug beat.” (Though Mark McGraw’s post on Wednesday about the implications of the Colorado Supreme Court’s Coats v. Dish Network decision may have spared me a few ribs.)
For the record, I’m not obsessed. Nor am I high. (Or funny, I’m sure.) Just hugely intrigued by the growing problem of drugs at work, and the almost explosive ascension of marijuana as a legalized “mind-alterer” and legitimate business. (Here are two recent posts — one late last year, one early this year — and a news analysis in which I’ve examined this phenomenon.)
It’s the business side of marijuana I find most intriguing in this recent piece on the Marijuana Business Daily site. Seems the very union that has nudged this burgeoning cannabis industry along, “helping to pass legislation and regulations that benefit business owners and the movement as a whole,” as the story puts it, is now presenting “canna-business” owners with some challenges.
Actually, the story refers to unions, plural, but the leader of the charge to organize thousands of businesses — dispensaries, infused products companies, ancillary firms and cultivation sites in numerous states including California, Colorado and Minnesota — and to represent even more thousands of employees, from budtenders to growers, is the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, one of the largest labor organizations in the country. UFCW even has a marijuana division along with a parallel website dedicated to promoting unionized marijuana businesses.
Bear in mind, these businesses sprouting up faster than the plants themselves are being run — for the most part — by people who are new to business. Now they’re finding they have to negotiate collective-bargaining agreements, and “that can boost costs, increase red tape, lead to legal issues and create new headaches,” the story says.
Granted, there are positives, too.
As the MBD story notes, in addition to politically partnering with the industry and helping to muscle pro-marijuana legislation through in more than one state, the UFCW’s “experience in moderating employer-employee disputes is an asset, along with systems the union usually proposes to standardize employee reprimands and evaluations.”
Still, it will be interesting — “intriguing,” to quote this very post — to see just how these cannabis start-ups deal with the challenges of working with labor unions.
As industry consultant Todd Mitchem tells MBD:
“When someone’s pro-union in the industry, my question is, ‘What’s the motivation?’ [According to him, there’s not a lot of need in cannabis companies for the traditional watchdog role that unions have played in other industries, such as mining or automotive manufacturing.]
“By and large, this industry wants to play by the rules. You run into a massive divisiveness between the employer and the employee [once unions become part of the equation]. To overlay a union structure onto a fragile industry … is really short-sighted and, in my opinion, risky.”