Dispensary Workers in Chicago Are Excited to Join the Teamsters Union

Budtenders at a Modern Cannabis location in Chicago, Illinois have voted to become the first group of cannabis workers to join the Teamsters Union.
Budtenders in Chicago Join the Teamsters Union

The budtenders at the River North location of Modern Cannabis in Chicago, Illinois announced last week that they have voted “overwhelmingly” to join Teamsters Local 777, which they said makes them “the first group of cannabis workers to do so.”

Modern Cannabis has two locations in Chicago—one in River North that only sells recreational marijuana products, and another in Logan Square that sells both recreational and medical.

Jason Blumstein and Sydney Charles, two budtenders at the River North branch in Chicago, said in a press release that they hoped their efforts to join the Teamsters could have an impact on all other workers in the industry.

“We are proud to be joining Local 777, a union with a deep history of defending and advocating for workers’ rights,” Blumstein and Charles said in their statement. “We are excited about the future and quality of life we can create for all cannabis workers.”

Jim Glimco, President of Teamsters Local 777, said in a statement of his own that his organization will be a viable option for those working in an ever-expanding industry.

“Congratulations to our newest members,” said Glimco. “As more and more states legalize recreational cannabis and the industry expands exponentially, workers are realizing that the Teamsters are the best union to ensure that the people who make these businesses succeed aren’t left out of the prosperity associated with this growth.”

In their press release last week, the Teamsters noted that the recreational marijuana business in Illinois has emerged as “one of the state’s fastest-growing industries.” They aren’t kidding.

Chicago’s Marijuana Boom Has Only Begun

Last year marked the inaugural year for the state’s recreational marijuana market, after Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a bill approving the reform in 2019.

Earlier this year, the Illinois Department of Revenue reported that the state generated $582,226,511.45 in revenue from recreational marijuana sales from January 2020 through November 2020. Signs were promising from the beginning, with the first day of marijuana sales alone generating more than $3 million. Several dispensaries throughout Illinois reported that they had run out of product due to the extreme demand in the opening days of sales.

While there are already many dispensaries operating throughout Chicago and other cities in the state of Illinois, it is only the beginning. The intense demand for cannabis in the state prompted Illinois lawmakers to pass a bill late last month that will significantly expand the number of cannabis licenses issued by the state. Under the legislation, more than 100 new dispensaries will be opened in Illinois.

The legislation also aimed to make the cannabis market in Illinois a more equitable one.

“As a state that values making our laws reflective of our diverse communities, we must ensure that social justice is at the center of everything we do—and today, that means building upon our work of passing the most equity-centric cannabis law in the nation,” Pritzker said after the legislation was passed.

That’s in keeping with the legalization efforts championed by Pritzker and implemented in the state. Along with legalizing recreational pot use and paving the way for a lucrative new industry, Illinois’ new law has been heavily focused on undoing the damage caused by prohibition. Under the law, thousands of previous low level marijuana offenders have seen their records expunged.

By the end of 2020, the state had expunged nearly 500,000 previous low level convictions.

Pritzker noted at the time that those tarnished records were a “burden disproportionately shouldered by communities of color.”

“We will never be able to fully remedy the depth of that damage. But we can govern with the courage to admit the mistakes of our past—and the decency to set a better path forward. I applaud the Prisoner Review Board, the Illinois State Police, and our partners across the state for their extraordinary efforts that allowed these pardons and expungements to become a reality,” Pritzker said.

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