By Michelle Berger

As the market for recreational cannabis products continues to gain traction, cannabis workers across the country are unionizing. These organizing drives have brought to light the ways in which, to its workers, the cannabis industry is not all that its consumer brand would suggest. This organizing has also illustrated how unions and labor law can be powerful countervailing forces when employers do not treat their workers well.

“Emerging from the Shadows”

The cannabis industry, as one CEO described, “is emerging from the shadows.” Congress criminalized cannabis in 1970 and it remains illegal under federal law, though all but ten states have adopted approaches to cannabis that are more permissive than the federal regime. This includes 23 states that permit the sale of cannabis for recreational use, subject to state tax and licensing regimes. As the CEO’s words suggest, the cannabis industry is in a transitional phase. And while the industry promotes itself as progressive and cool, its workers often have a different experience.

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