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History was made this week in Washington D.C. when the district’s first Black-owned cannabis dispensary also became the first to unionize.

DC Holistic Wellness, or, Cannabliss, a 100% Black-owned medical cannabis dispensary, is the first of its kind in many ways. Renovated from an old liquor store, Cannabliss was created with a vision for spreading the wealth of potential health benefits that cannabis can offer to qualifying medical patients.

The employees of Cannabliss became members of the United Food and Commercial Works International Union (UCFW) Local 400, subsequently making cannabis and labor history. The workers of Cannabliss can now enjoy “greater pay, paid time off, and paid holidays, as well as retirement plans, additional accredited training, and health care insurance,” according to a press release from Cannabliss owner and founder Norbert Pickett.

The 13 workers at the one-year-old dispensary are the first in D.C. to unionize. The act sets a hopeful example for cannabis industry employees everywhere. By joining the UCFW, they are joining one of the largest cannabis industry unions. The UCFW represents 10,000 employees in over a dozen states across America.

One Giant Leap for Stoner-Kind

The historic significance of this moment is a further indication of a known problem: the cannabis industry is young. Recreational cannabis remains an illicit substance on the federal level. This lack of federal regulation extends to the workplace, leaving industry professionals vulnerable without proper organization or representation.

In an effort to extend cannabis employee protections, states like California have begun to legally mandate labor union contracts for cannabis employers. In October 2019, Governor Newsom signed a law requiring cannabis license applicants to sign a “labor peace agreement,” between their business and a labor union, at risk of losing their license. These agreements require employer neutrality in employee organizing. In Washington state, Have a Heart made history as the first cannabis dispensary to sign a unionizing agreement in 2018.

Cannabliss has set a progressive example to industry leaders everywhere, and gestured toward a brighter future for this budding industry. You can support them or learn more by visiting their website here.

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