Union teams up with medical marijuana advocates

SAN JOSE, Calif.

This unusual partnership has the union offering political clout and the medical marijuana collectives offering jobs. Ron Lind, the president-international vice president of UFCW says, "These are good middle class jobs in the medical marijuana industry. We have more than 200 members that work in these jobs. We want to see that grow so they can build their power and build their legitimacy."

One recent estimate says medical marijuana sales could hit $8.9 billion in just five years. There are already union cannabis shops in Oakland and other communities and operators say it's a natural partnership.

Angel Raich, who is the founder and CEO of ARCH collective in Oakland, says in exchange for union jobs, the industry gets powerful political clout. Raich who is well know for her legal battles on the medical marijuana front and is a patient herself having gone through brain surgery says, "It's kind of like a meeting of the minds in a way because the reality is, we want good regulation."

After more than a year and a half of debate, the San Jose City Council is once again going to take up the issue at its council meeting Tuesday. The council is considering zoning requirements, limits on the number of collectives that can operate in the city and how to select who gets to stay in business. The city staff has proposed a limit of 10 collectives and to possibly select the winners through an Internet auction, which people in the medical marijuana industry say will only attract the wrong element.

Mayor Chuck Reed says he hopes to move forward in the debate but the newly formed Silicon Valley Cannabis Coalition backed by the unions will not change the nature of the discussion. Mayor Reed says auctioning off permits is still a viable way to raise money and ensure quality operators. Mayor Reed says, "I think it will be pretty clear that drug dealers and people with criminal backgrounds are not going to qualify for the lottery."

The newly formed coalition has its own ideas on how many collectives should be allowed and who should operate them, calling the idea of an auction ridiculous. A2C2 founder Dave Hodges says, "All it will do is invite the people with the most money, which tend to be drug dealers, to get permits."

Tuesday's highly anticipated council meeting gets underway at 1:30 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall. The medical marijuana discussion is on the afternoon agenda and the meeting will likely go for hours.

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