Union Plays Role in Pot Club Referendum

Faced with what they called a back-door ban of San Jose’s collectives, the barely month-old Citizens Coalition for Patient Care (CCPC) turned in more than 47,000 signatures to the city clerk last week, well over the 29,653 signatures needed for a referendum against regulations the City Council passed in September.

James Anthony, CCPC chairman, said the organization also registered nearly 8,000 new voters and raised over $200,000 from supporters. The group may need both on their side, as Mayor Chuck Reed proposed raising the Measure U tax on collectives from 7 to 10 percent to cover potential election costs for the referendum.

City Clerk Dennis Hawkins said it will take 30 days to verify the signatures. If the coalition did collect the required number of valid signatures, the City Council will be forced to either repeal the ordinance or to put the referendum to a special election.

San Jose’s cannabis activists have received support throughout this process from a major political player: the United Food and Commercial Workers union, which represents 1.5 million workers in the retail food, meatpacking and poultry industries. At a press conference announcing the signature accumulated, Anthony was flanked by CCPC co-chair and UFCW Local 5 rep Matt Witemyre. UFCW posters and stickers were attached to the petition boxes. UFCW Local 5 hosted CCPC meetings and trained signature gatherers at its downtown headquarters. The labor union also donated $5,000 to the campaign.

In an additional announcement at the presser, Witemyre said three local dispensaries—Cinnabar Health Collective, Santa Clara Valley Collective Services and SV Care—have taken the first steps toward joining UFCW Local 5. UFCW has already signed up medical cannabis workers in Oakland, San Francisco and Colorado.

SV Care owner Ace Salvadore says he hopes union membership can help educate the public about medical cannabis, standardize training and regulation in the industry and bring legitimacy in the eyes of the public. Salvadore says he was the first of his 12 employees to turn in a union card. Once the contract is finalized, union membership means SV Care workers will get new benefits, including increased wages plus vacation, sick time and 401(k) accounts.

UFCW undoubtedly brings another benefit to the cannabis industry: political muscle. OpenSecrets.org, an independent website tracking political contributions, labels UFCW a “Heavy Hitter,” one of the top 100 donors to federal elections since 1990. The union’s money goes almost exclusively to Democratic candidates.

UFCW’s political action committee pumped $673,309 in independent expenditures to Barack Obama’s election in 2008, contributed $1.8 million to Democratic federal candidates in 2008 and $1.7 million to Democratic congressional candidates in 2010.


  1. Ha!  My pro-union parish priest had guest speakers from the food workers industry—I’m assuming they were members of this union—speak at Labor Day weekend Masses about “food justice.”  A lot of us took issue with him over his choice of speakers.  Lo and behold, looks like we have “mission creep.”  No doubt he’ll be happy to find out that he was allowing pot enablers into our church.

    Organized labor:  the gift that keeps giving.

  2. “pot enablers” ……that sounds awful. IUn fact it sounds so bad I’m going to have a few shots of whiskey to dull those thoughts.  Then I’m going for a drive to clear my mind.

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