March 2, 2016
By Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel
Toronto, Canada – MedReleaf, one of Canada’s largest medical-marijuana producers. Last fall, well over half of the 50 employees at the company’s facility in the Toronto suburb of Markham signed cards to join the United Food and Commercial Workers, which represents medical-cannabis workers in five U.S. states.
But when the union lost the election and challenged the results, the Ontario labor board ruled that MedReleaf was an agricultural company, and provincial law says agricultural workers cannot be unionized. MedReleaf proceeded to lay off several union supporters, and the UFCW has filed unfair labor-practices charges against it. The episode crystallized concerns about corporatization in the cannabis industry as it moves closer to full legalization. “For everyone who has tirelessly campaigned for decriminalization or legalization,” UFCW Canada national representative Kevin Shimmin wrote, “it's high time to acknowledge the dramatic difference between a compassion clinic and a transnational corporation which prefers to keep its workplace union-free.” Read more