It’s no secret: Cannabis is the talk of the nation and, in New Jersey, marijuana is all the rage. From the taxes that expanded legalization will bring into the state, to how many mergers of growers and distributors will happen before a single extra plant is grown, everyone wants to be involved in this exciting opportunity.
One topic that has not been given enough attention by politicians is the potential creation of thousands of jobs through the Legislature-approved expansion of medical cannabis, and — fingers crossed — pending legalization of adult recreational use.
It’s clear that expansion at anylevel would bring an incredible economic opportunity for the working class of New Jersey. In April, Forbes magazine estimated that there were 211,000 full-time employees in the U.S. cannabis industry. If you include auxiliary industries, such as the accountants, marketing staff, lawyers, etc., that marijuana firms must hire, the employment volume soars to 296,000. Furthermore, the industry added approximately 65,000 jobs — a 44% increase — in 2018 alone.
With both Stockton and Rutgers universities already taking the lead in education for the cannabis trade, why shouldn't these prepared workers be able to walk right into a union career when they graduate? This could help attract professionals from around the country and contain the infamous “leak”of people leaving New Jersey. Forbesestimates that, by 2024, cannabis jobs, in positions such as “budtender” and head grower, will outpace job creation in manufacturing, utilities and even public-sector jobs. College graduates who obtain a union-wage cannabis career should be able to pay back those notorious student loans.
What people may not know is that a good percentage of cannabis workers in other states are already unionized. As a union representative for United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 152, it’s my job to make sure that the working class enjoys union guarantees, such as a living wage, health care benefits, safe working conditions, vacation, and retirement. UFCW is the union that represents the largest number of cannabis workers internationally.
Ensuring that our workers have a legal voice on the job should be a top priority for both politicians and social justice advocates. At the end of the day, there will be more workers than there will be dispensary or cultivation facility owners.
Unionizing these workers in New Jersey will allow everyone, from the growers behind the scenes to the friendly security guards, to have an organized labor voice from day one. Potential employees can expect their starting wages to be about 30% higher than in similar non-union facilities in other states.
Having a union will also attract the best cannabis employers in the nation, those who choose to treat their workers with respect and put it in a contract.
Additional winners will bemedical cannabis patients.Patients deserve to know that the cannabis industry in New Jersey has the best safety standards, the best quality medicine and consistency in the work force. Unionized cannabis will accomplish that.
It's time for New Jersey to legalize adult use and for the governor to sign the medical use expansion. Union Grown. American Made. Jersey Proud.
Hugh Giordano is a union representative with UFCW Local 152, based in Egg Harbor Township.
The billion-dollar medical marijuana, hemp and legal weed industries offer an economic opportunity unrivaled in modern N.J. history. NJ Cannabis Insiderfeatures exclusive, premium content for those interested in getting in on the ground floor or expanding their operation. View a sample issue.