Curaleaf’s Massachusetts-based medical cannabis workers unionize

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Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

A Curaleaf medical cannabis dispensary based in Hanover, Massachusetts has revealed that its employees have voted to join the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local Union 328.

Efforts to unionize Curaleaf’s Massachusetts-based medical cannabis dispensary workers started in March 2020. Last year, a union vote led to some ballots being contested. Consequently, a hearing was held with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

Following Curaleaf’s failed attempt to appeal against the NLRB, unionization was approved with a tally of 8-3; the result of four outstanding ballots being counted. A contract negotiation is now in the works between UFCW Local 328 and Curaleaf.

The vote signifies an emerging trend to unionize cannabis retail businesses across various U.S. states that have established legal markets, such as Massachusetts. 

“The workers wanted to address issues related to the pandemic as well as other issues such as low pay and unfair discipline,” reads an excerpt from an official UFCW news release.

Employees working at a medical cannabis cultivation facility in Rhode Island have also been assisted by the UFCW with unionization.

Medical cannabis in Massachusetts was legalized five years ago 

The recreational cannabis market in Massachusetts launched five years ago. Since its inception, approximately 249 final licenses have been distributed among lucky applicants, of whom have opened 122 cannabis retail stores statewide.

Sales of adult-use cannabis in Massachusetts exceeded $1.45 billion since November 2018. As a direct effect of this, sales tax has surpassed $90 million.

During a single day, consumers residing in the State of Massachusetts are able to visit a dispensary or numerous dispensaries as many times as they desire. Then again, dispensary staff are not legally allowed to dispense more than the state’s permitted limit.

Raising sufficient capital is a major obstacle for cannabis business owners in Massachusetts

One of the main issues that plagues the process of launching a cannabis business in Massachusetts relates to the raising of capital. Analysts from cannabis market research firm Arcview estimate that approximately $500,000 is required just to get things moving in the right direction. 

Another setback for hopeful cannabis entrepreneurs in Massachusetts involves tracking down a municipality that can permit the “host community agreement” or the necessary HCA to establish a business.

Based on state law, municipalities sometimes require an upfront ‘community impact fee’ from applicants up to the amount of three percent. The purpose of this fee is to afford costs “reasonably related to the pot shop’s operations.”

A number of towns are intent on resolving the problem on their own. For example, on January 1, the City of Northampton stopped collecting community impact fees. The city was the first in Massachusetts to launch a recreational cannabis store.