Monday, January 22, 2018
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Teamsters Question Legalization Campaign

Teamsters Question Legalization Campaign

A petition to legalize marijuana in California, which will appear on the statewide ballot in November, has broad public support. But some surprising groups are skeptical of the idea.

Strangely enough, they include the famously Democratic Teamsters, a union that represents 1.4 million members, most of them truck drivers and loaders. The union has announced it’s donating to a lobbying fund dedicated to defeating legalization in the Golden State.

Teamsters donated $25 to anti-legalization fund

Teamsters RallyIn March the Teamsters gave $25,000 to the fund, which is managed by a group called the Coalition for Responsible Drug Policies. They joined less surprising opponents of cannabis reform: police organizations, prison guards, and other law enforcement. But the decision by the Teamsters is new; the group has never fought legalization in the past.

Barry Broad, a lobbyist for the Teamsters, said the union doesn’t officially oppose the initiative but has “serious concerns” with its language.

“We are concerned primarily about the parts related to distribution and transportation, the core of our membership. We’re opposed to vertical integration in the industry. We support an independent distribution model.”

That would mimic the distribution methods used by the alcohol industry, which benefit Teamsters and other union workers. Alcohol sales are divided by law into three “tiers,” including producers, distributors, and retailers. Alcohol distribution must involve regulated wholesalers, companies where truck drivers and warehouse employees are in relatively high demand.

AUMA would allow growers to distribute their cannabis

The legal marijuana system proposed for California wouldn’t used that three-tiered system, instead allowing many small and mid-size growers to distribute their own cannabis. That could cost Teamsters valuable jobs in a fast-growing new industry.

Broad said the $25,000 donation was meant to fund polling of California voters to determine where they stand on cannabis legalization. It was not intended to directly pay for public opposition to the ballot initiative, he said.

“It went to polling because we wanted to find out what voters were thinking about the issue. That’s what it went to. We haven’t done anything since, and that was really at the very outset of this. Where we go, I mean, we may oppose it, or we may not oppose it, but we haven’t made that decision yet.”

The legalization petition is being pushed by a group headed by tech billionaire and former Facebook president Sean Parker, who has donated $500,000 to a total of $2.3 million raised by supporters. The proposed law is called the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, and it would legalize the sale, possession, and use of small amounts of marijuana for recreation.

The AUMA would allow adults over 21 to buy and consume up to an ounce of pot. The law would also levy a sales tax and enact regulations for a legal marijuana industry.

What impact do you think the Teamsters will have on the chances marijuana legalization will pass in November? Will it be enough to matter? Let us know with a comment.

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