Organized labor spoke up on behalf of medical cannabis patients and workers in Los Angeles today. One hundred medical cannabis patients, workers, and advocates gathered on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall for a press conference hosted by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 770, which represents workers at more than twenty of the most reputable patients’ cooperatives and collectives in the city. UFCW Local 770 called the press conference to oppose a motion by City Council Members Jose Huizar and Mitchell Englander calling for an outright ban on patients’ associations. The motion will be before the Public Safety Committee tomorrow, and may be before the full City Council within days.
The Huizar-Englander motion is known by the euphemism “the gentle ban,” because the Author and the City Attorney claim the ordinance created by this motion would “allow” patients to grow their own medicine at home, but ban all other access in the city. But the right of patients and primary caregivers to grow medicine is already guaranteed under the Compassionate Use Act (Proposition 215) and the Medical Marijuana Program Act (SB 420). The “gentle ban” takes away real access for most patients, but gives nothing in return. “There is nothing gentle about the gentle ban,” said UFCW Local 770 Director of Organizing Rigo Valdez.
The City Council has another option. A competing motion by Council Member Paul Koretz and Council President Herb Wesson would allow for a limited number of patients cooperatives and collectives in the city, provided they comply with as yet undetermined provisions. That motion is designed to settle numerous lawsuits and comply with the Appellate Court decision in Pack v. Long Beach, which if upheld, may bar the city from some kinds of regulation. Unfortunately, the Koretz-Wesson “limited immunity” motion is being ignored by committee members and city staff.
The voice of organized labor is a welcome addition to the long and controversial debate about medical cannabis in Los Angeles. UFCW Local 770 is using its influence and experience to help to push the City Council away from the cynical “gentle ban” and towards an option that will preserve real access to medicine and good union jobs in Los Angeles. Patients and workers in Los Angeles hope lawmakers heard the voice of labor today, and will listen tomorrow at the Public Safety Committee hearing.