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UFCW Statement On Introduction of Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA)

July 22, 2022

Landmark Legislation to End Federal Prohibition on Marijuana Includes Crucial Language Protecting Workers

Washington, DC – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), which represents 1.3 million workers in grocery stores, meatpacking plants, and other essential industries across North America, responded to the introduction of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA).

“We are continuing to review the full contents of this landmark legislation, but are pleased to see that critically important language protecting workers across the cannabis industry has been included.

“For decades now, UFCW has led the charge in organizing workers across the cannabis industry. Workers in this burgeoning industry have always faced unique challenges in health and safety, the resolution of labor disputes, and legal protections. Therefore, it’s imperative that any major federal action on cannabis prohibition centers strong worker protections.

“Ending federal cannabis prohibition is one of the most important criminal justice, racial and economic equity, and labor protection issues of our time. In solving these issues, we must create a cannabis industry that addresses the harm done by federal prohibition and creates good jobs in the same communities that were previously targeted by incarceration. Today’s bill introduction is an important step in moving this effort forward, and we welcome the opportunity to continue working with our legislative partners on Capitol Hill as we finish reviewing this bill.”

The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA) was introduced by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), alongside Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Ron Wyden (D-OR). Among other provisions, this bill would: remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act schedule, ends the threat of federal prosecution for possession or licensed commercial activity, creates a federal cannabis licensing structure through the Department of Treasury with labor protections, allocates money for cannabis apprenticeships and education on workers’ rights, and requires NIOSH to research the health and safety impacts on workers throughout the cannabis industry.

Last year, after the release of draft of the bill and the solicitation of discussion on its provisions, UFCW relayed feedback on the labor protection aspects of the bill, which included:

  • Request for language that ensures all cannabis jobs have the full protection of labor laws,
  • Request for language that ensures apprenticeship programs have full access to federal resources afforded to programs in other industries
  • Requests for language that direct health and safety standards specific to the cannabis industry
  • Request for the protection for the current “state-based” industries, many of which already implement strong labor protections 

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The UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States. UFCW International represents 1.3 million professionals and their families in healthcare, grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries. Our members serve our communities in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Learn more about the UFCW at ufcw.org.