Oakland Pot Club Says Union, Yes!

Oaksterdam University employees join UFCW Local 5

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 19: Dave Warden, a bud tender at Private Organic Therapy (P.O.T.), a non-profit co-operative medical marijuana dispensary, displays various types of marijuana available to patients on October 19, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Attorney General Eric Holder announced new guidelines today for federal prosecutors in states where the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes is allowed under state law. Federal prosecutors will no longer trump the state with raids on the southern California dispensaries as they had been doing, but Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley recently began a crackdown campaign that will include raids against the facilities. Cooley maintains that virtually all marijuana dispensaries are in violation of the law because they profit from their product. The city of LA has been slow to come to agreement on how to regulate its 800 to 1,000 dispensaries. Californians voted to allow sick people with referrals from doctors to consume cannabis with the passage of state ballot Proposition 215 in 1996 and a total of 14 states now allow the medicinal use of marijuana. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

    At a ceremony hosted by Oakland City Council's Rebecca Kaplan, 100 employees at medical marijuana dispensary and education hub Oaksterdam University turned in their membership cards to join the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 5.

    It may well be the first union pot shop in the country, if not the world.

    While it will help employees collectively bargain and resolve disputes with management, it also gives owner Richard Lee political allies with labor organizations.

    Lee is responsible for the Tax Cannabis 2010 ballot measure, which would decriminalize recreational use of cannabis, which polls suggest has neatly divided California voters.

    As legitimization of the multi-billion dollar business in marijuana could set the stage for a growth industry, one that UFCW is now in on the ground floor of. Which could help sway other growth-oriented unions like the Service Employees International Union.

    Of course, police officer associations and the correctional officers union are unlikely to throw their support behind the ballot measure, since more drug arrests means more money and jobs for law enforcement and prisons.

    It remains to be seen if the ballot measure will pick up a new string of labor endorsements, or whether it will pay off politically for the likes of Kaplan, who's running for Mayor of Oakland.

    Jackson West loves it when labor and civil liberties meet, as in this case and that of San Francisco's worker-owned Lusty Lady.