California: Medical Marijuana Dispensary Welcomes Workers' Choice To Unionize

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

More than 20 workers at the South Coast Safe Access medicinal cannabis dispensary on Thursday celebrated joining the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 324.

Workers at South Coast Safe Access and their union representatives also worked productively with dispensary management to quickly come to an agreement for a historic first contract, according to Derek Worden, president of the dispensary. The comprehensive contract agreed to includes fair wages, health insurance, a retirement pension, grievance procedure, and other protections and benefits for workers.

Officials from Orange County's labor community had been in talks with the dispensary for some time. Formal recognition of the union by the facility avoids the need for a contentious fight over representation. That ultimately paved the way for a comprehensive contract that included fair wages, health insurance, a retirement pension, grievance procedure and other protections and benefits for workers, according to Worden.

“We pride ourselves in being a great employer, a valuable community partner, and a safe access provider for thousands of patients,” Worden said. “We are pleased that our staff have decided to unite and collectively work together to ensure fair wages, good benefits, and the safest working conditions so that our patients can continue to have reliable access to the highest quality, environmentally-friendly, and affordable medicinal cannabis in the region.

"This is a historic step forward for the medical cannabis industry," Worden said on Thursday. "It is historic for Orange County's Labor Movement and it is historic for Santa Ana. The city has been ground zero for some of the most heated battles in the ongoing debate. This outcome represents a wide spread public acceptance of the vital need for the commodity, a clear victory for Cannabis supporters who have face growing pressure from neighborhoods to clean up many of their facilities.

"We believe that once again, the pendulum is swinging back in favor of the medical cannabis industry after several years of setbacks at the local level," Worden said. "The good middle class jobs that come from union contracts like this one are examples of the positive impact these facilities have on local communities.

"We hope it will pave the way for a new public perception of medical dispensaries," Worden said. "South Coast Safe Access has also reached out to residents near its facility to ensure their safety concerns are addressed.

"We believe that the public will never see the workers who dispense this product as the professionals they are until they are compensated at a level deserving of that title," Worden said. "Our announcement today demonstrates that there are, indeed, conscientious and ethical dispensary owners who feel the same.

"We look forward to working with UFCW Local 324 in helping our staff create productive long-term careers in the dispensary industry,” Worden said.

The agreement between the dispensary and the union is the first of its kind in Orange County and is likely to serve as a model for helping to strengthen the workforce within the medical cannabis industry and ensure safe reliable access to patients in the Orange County community.

South Coast Safe Access is a medicinal lifeline for thousands of patients who rely on filling medicinal cannabis prescriptions safely and accurately. They are recognized as a leader in the dispensary industry for working with community members, law enforcement, and local government officials to provide safe access to patients. South Coast Safe Access was also the first dispensary to obtain a legal permit to operate in the city of Santa Ana and opened their first location in August of 2015.

They voluntarily worked with the Santa Ana Police Department to go through a thorough vetting process that included background checks and other safety compliance measures. Their dispensary will also contribute additional tax revenue to help fund public services in Santa Ana and enforce compliance of Measure BB – the voter approved ballot measure to regulate legal dispensaries in the city.

South Coast Safe Access is located at 1900 Warner Ave, Santa Ana, CA 92705.

Photo: Sorbet