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By Kyle Jaeger
The NAACP has voted to adopt a resolution that renews its support for federal marijuana legalization with a new call to protect workers’ rights in the cannabis industry.
At the 114th NAACP National Convention late last month, delegates held a plenary session where they voted on a variety of measures, including one that reaffirmed the organization’s prior cannabis reform platforms while adding a new position on labor peace agreements and marijuana industry worker protections.
The resolution, which was adopted without discussion during the session, notes that “the majority of people in the cannabis industry will be workers rather than owners” and advocates that “the workers who grow, process, test, distribute, and sell cannabis deserve a fair and safe workplace and family-sustaining job like every other worker.”
“Access to union representation, training and apprenticeship will help ensure that a broad range of workers can benefit from the cannabis industry, especially workers from communities that have been disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition in the past,” it says.
Further, the measure notes that unions and related labor services like apprenticeships can promote diversity within the marijuana space, helping to promote industry participation by people who’ve been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs.
“NAACP calls for the legalization and de-scheduling of cannabis at the federal level and reaffirms its past resolutions on cannabis, the cannabis industries, decriminalization, and equity, and expresses an intent to advocate for federal, state, and local medical and adult-use cannabis legislation that includes labor peace agreements as a condition of licensure,” the resolution says.
Marijuana legislation should also be crafted in a way that “ensures all cannabis workers from cultivation to sale to delivery are treated as employees under the National Labor Relations Act, Fair Labor Standards Act and Occupational Safety and Health Administration; including the right to join, form or organize a union.”
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), which represents cannabis workers in several states that have enacted legalization, celebrated the adoption of the resolution.
UFCW International President Marc Perrone said in a statement that the NAACP action “marks a crucial step forward in making sure employers and legislators understand the profound impact that a worker-friendly cannabis industry could have on people of color.”
“Cannabis industry workers, like every other worker, deserve safe workplaces and family-sustaining jobs,” Perrone, who also recently sent a letter to Biden administration officials on the need to enact legalization with policies promoting industry workers’ rights, said. “This is especially true for the formerly incarcerated and others disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs.”
“As America’s cannabis union, we again thank the NAACP for this resolution and for acknowledging the importance of cannabis organizing in achieving racial equity and making sure workers’ voices are heard at every level of the cannabis industry,” he said.
NAACP CEO Derrick Johnson, who submitted the cannabis resolution, said that as the marijuana market grows, “we must center Black interests for both workers and entrepreneurs, as one of the ways to right the decades-long injustices we have faced at the hands of the ‘War on Drugs.'”
“Over the past several years, the cannabis industry has seen exponential growth and prosperity without progress for Black workers. This cannot continue,” he said. “The NAACP is committed to ensuring that as this industry grows, benefits to Black workers grow with it. That’s what thriving together looks like.”
Last year, NAACP’s board of directors adopted a resolution calling for the “immediate passage” of a bipartisan marijuana banking bill.
Meanwhile, Ademola Oyefeso, director of UFCW’s Legislative and Political Action Department, testified at a Senate Banking Committee hearing in May to advocate for the passage of the cannabis banking reform legislation.
He also penned an op-ed for Marijuana Moment in June that emphasized the need for cannabis worker protections as more states move to enact legalization.
Last year, the nation’s largest union representing federal employees—the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE)—adopted a resolution in support of marijuana legalization and calling for an end to policies that penalize federal workers who use cannabis responsibly while they’re off the clock in states where it is legal.