As states gradually legalize medical and recreational, cannabis the marijuana industry has become a more legitimate member of the business community, and conventional organizations and services are following.
Two examples can be seen in an Oregon union which has begun to unionize the employees who grow, test and dispense cannabis, and a national insurance company that offers supplemental medical insurance to cannabis patients.
UFCW555, based in Eugene, is the first union to organize cannabis workers in Oregon, says union Secretary-Treasurer, Keizer’s Jeff Anderson. The union has already been working with employees in Colorado and Washington for three years, and Anderson says, “we think we can represent several thousand in Oregon in the next few.”
The union believes Oregon is headed for 7,000 – 8,000 legitimate industry-related jobs before too long.
“As the industry comes from dark to light in terms of recreational marijuana,” Anderson says, “UFCW wants to create a middle-class standard of living for these employees. When I talk to legislators, I use the drug store model over the convenience store model; how a drug store supports its workers with higher wages, by providing benefits and generally contributing to their community.”
In July, Stoney Brothers in Portland teamed with UFCW555 to become the first in the state to approve a union contract.
“With everyone from growers to trimmers, Stoney Brothers will have over one hundred employees within the year,” Anderson says, including workers in five Portland dispensaries and a topical product factory.
“These individuals will earn a minimum of $15/hour and work 15 – 34 hours a week. They’ll have a company medical plan, and we’re working on developing a retirement plan.”
Anderson is pleased that legalized cannabis and the business it generates will benefit Oregon in both its cities and rural areas. “One thing I like about this industry is it creates rural economic development: family wage jobs in rural areas that are economically depressed by the loss of the timber industry.”
A business uniting medical patients with providers, NOVUS Medplan is an American discounted medical program for accessing medicinal marijuana. It exists, says company chairman Frank Fabrozzi, to support medical marijuana users whose cannabis medicines are not covered by conventional health insurance programs.
By paying a small monthly premium and working with pre-approved Network Providers (medical marijuana dispensaries) NOVUS offers patient members with medical marijuana cards significant discounts for cannabis-derived products.
“Your typical insurance carriers won’t cover medical marijuana since it’s not an approved drug at the federal level,” says Fabrozzi, “and they don’t want to jeopardize their lucrative federal program agreements such as Medicare and Medicaid.”
Because these legal obstacles won’t go away soon, he says, conventional insurers probably won’t cover medicinal cannabis for the next four or five years.
“In the meantime, medical marijuana users, more than two million registered card users nationwide, have to find other ways to pay for treatment, mostly out of pocket. That’s where we can help.”
Fabrozzi estimates the national regulated cannabis market to be over $2.34 billion by the end of fiscal year 2015, and with more states moving to approve use experts, “we anticipate it will reach $30 billion by 2018.”
No pot in my community!
As of August 12, eight Oregon cities and four Oregon counties have used provisions established by the legislature to opt out of all aspects of the cannabis industry. All have enacted ordinances that prohibit both the production and processing of marijuana, and both wholesale and retail sales.
Douglas County and the cities of Brownsville, Sandy, Sutherlin and Junction City will allow the matter to be voted on by the public in the general election in November.