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News, Politics

NAACP Advocates for Marijuana Legalization and Cannabis Industry Workers’ Rights in Renewed Push for Reform

Lemetria Whitehurst

by Lemetria Whitehurst

December 22, 2023 08:00 am ET Estimated Read Time: 4 Minutes
NAACP Advocates for Marijuana Legalization and Cannabis Industry Workers’ Rights in Renewed Push for Reform

Delegates at the 114th NAACP National Convention unanimously voted to adopt an amendment reiterating its support for cannabis reform. The new amendment also emphasizes teaming up with labor unions to secure protections for cannabis industry employees.

Historical Background

The NAACP’s recent move aligns with its history of progressive stances on cannabis reform. In past years, the NAACP endorsed various measures aimed at decriminalizing cannabis. These past proposals called for the end of criminal penalties that disproportionately affect communities of color. Additionally, these past proposals also pushed for equal access to the economic opportunities arising from the legal cannabis market.

What the New Resolution Is All About

The NAACP’s new resolution tackles the realities of the cannabis marketplace head-on. It spotlights the fact that the majority of people involved in the growing industry are workers, not owners. The resolution advocates for fair and safe workplaces for all those in the cannabis supply chain – from growers to testers to sellers.

To secure these rights and protections, the resolution demands that workers have increased access to:

  • Union Representation
  • Specialized Training
  • Apprenticeship Programs

This comprehensive approach aims to set higher workplace standards for the cannabis industry. It ensures that all workers — especially those historically marginalized by cannabis prohibition — can enjoy the rewards of this booming market.

Addressing Disproportionate Impacts and Ensuring Equity

In the midst of an expanding cannabis industry, the NAACP remains focused on addressing the unjust consequences of drug prohibition on communities of color. They emphasize that these communities should have an active role in reaping the economic advantages that come with legalization.

NAACP CEO Derrick Johnson spoke about the imperative to prioritize the interests of Black individuals, both as workers and entrepreneurs in the booming industry. Johnson said, “Over the past several years, the cannabis industry has seen exponential growth and prosperity without progress for Black workers. This cannot continue.”

Reaction From the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW)

The response to the NAACP’s amendment has been overwhelmingly positive. Most important among the supporters of the amendment, however, is the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW). UFCW International President Marc Perrone, enthusiastically welcomed the NAACP’s renewed focus on cannabis reform and worker rights.

With UFCW representing cannabis workers in multiple states where cannabis is legal, they have long advocated for jobs that provide a fair wage. Perrone stated that “Cannabis industry workers, like every other worker, deserve safe workplaces and family-sustaining jobs.” Perrone further elaborated, adding:

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“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.”

Perrone believes this focus is crucial for recognizing the positive impact a worker-friendly cannabis industry can have on POC.

Other Advocacy Efforts

Beyond the NAACP and UFCW, other organizations are also rallying for advancements in cannabis policy. Ademola Oyefeso, UFCW’s Head of Legislative and Political Action, recently appeared before the Senate Banking Committee to advocate for cannabis banking reform — an essential component of the industry’s financial stability. 

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), representing the largest group of federal employees, is another prominent group speaking on its support for cannabis. Last year, AFGE passed a resolution supporting cannabis legalization. It called on the federal government to stop penalizing federal workers for responsibly using cannabis in legal states.

Together, these efforts demonstrate growing support for comprehensive cannabis reform that addresses both social and economic concerns.

Final Thoughts

The NAACP’s latest proposal serves as a reminder of the organization’s commitment to cannabis legalization while notably expanding its focus to include stronger protections for workers in the industry. As the cannabis market continues to grow, this resolution lays the groundwork for ensuring increased diversity and workers’ rights are at the forefront of this booming industry.

It calls for sweeping legislative changes, strengthens union ties, and stresses the need for an inclusive, equitable market. Through this multi-faceted approach, the NAACP is not only advocating for legal reform but also aiming to reshape the industry in a way that allows various communities and workers to thrive together.

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