Union Sets Its Sights On Ohio Marijuana Growers

Connor D. Wolf | Reporter

A major union at the forefront of organizing workers in the newly forming marijuana industry joined activists Monday in a call for Ohio to legalize the drug.

In places which have already legalized or allowed the drug for medical purposes, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) has been busy organizing industry workers. With 10 farms ready to make a hasty switch to pot, Ohio activists are hoping their state will be next for legalized growing. The owners of the farms already promise to support unionization, so the new legal industry could be a huge boom for the UFCW. The UFCW successfully finalized the first ever union contract for cannabis workers in Washington state back in June.

“Our union brothers and sisters are fighting dangerous attacks on their freedom in other states,” the activist group ResponsibleOhio said during an announcement, according to the local CBS affiliate. “So, it’s a source of pride to see new businesses of this scale launching and taking important steps to protect its employees from the very beginning.”

ResponsibleOhio has led the push to legalize the drug in the state. Residents will get to vote in November on an amendment proposed by the group which will allow them to sell, grow and use marijuana. Among the potential farm owners is equity fund manager Woody Taft.

“Over the course of history, owners of these businesses have taken advantage of these workers, and we want to be clear that we’re not going to do that,” Taft told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “We’re going to give them a fair wage and fair benefits.”

Woody along with his musician brother Dudley Taft Jr. were among the investors backing the $20 million effort to put the issue on the November ballot. The family has an interesting place in the history of labor policy as well. The Tafts are descendants of U.S. Sen. Robert A. Taft of Ohio who authored the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act, which is one of the main pieces of legislation governing union activities.

“Beyond that, it’s my intention, that in Butler County, we will build a model facility, not just in terms of Ohio but in terms of the nation and world,” Woody continued. “Along with that goes being environmentally friendly, being a good citizen in our community and being fair to our workers.”

The federal government outlawed the sale, possession and use of marijuana in a series of laws primarily enacted in the 1930s. Several states in the last few years have already legalized the drug with many more either decriminalizing it or allowing it for medical purposes.

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