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Former Cannabis Union Honcho: Feds Took Me Out

Dan Rush Cannabis Now Magazine
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Former Cannabis Union Honcho: Feds Took Me Out

From 2010 until his arrest on corruption and bribery charges last summer, former union organizer Dan Rush was a fixture in the medical cannabis movement.

A nationwide figure with the United Food and Commercial Workers — which supported legalization effort Prop. 19 in 2010 — and a member of the Berkeley Medical Cannabis Commission, Rush is credited with bringing cannabis industry workers into organized labor and giving cannabis political legitimacy in return.

That all ended with a lengthy FBI investigation and a subsequent indictment on multiple felonies last fall. Rush was fired from UFCW, which has since had great difficulty convincing other cannabis workers to organize.

And it was all a setup, Rush claims — payback from the federal Justice Department for his anti-prohibition organizing, according to court filings made last week by his defense attorneys.

“His efforts were in accordance with the will of California citizens but very much in opposition to the United States Attorney’s sinister, punitive and ill-advised campaign against decriminalization,” Rush’s attorneys wrote in a motion filed last week.

In a response, prosecutors for United States Attorney Brian Stretch called the allegations “unsubstantiated.”

Rush, 55, was arrested in July 2015 and later indicted by a grand jury. According to prosecutors, he took $550,000 from a group of Oakland cannabis business people — and, when he could not pay it back, later promised some cannabis investors in Las Vegas that he could rig a union organizing process against the workers.

Prosecutors say this began when the cannabis business people — which includes Derek Peterson, the CEO of publicly-traded cannabis company Terra Tech and a partner in Oakland dispensary Blum — went to the feds after they could not get their money back. Rush’s former lawyer, Marc Terbeek, also turned on Rush after a January 2015 raid of his law offices, after which time telephone calls and other conversations between the two were turned over to the feds.

But according to his defense attorneys, Rush was caught up in a federal corruption investigation that targeted state and local officials named “Operation Limelight,” according to court filings. That sting began in Dec. 2011, during the U.S. Justice Department’s crackdown on state-legal medical cannabis dispensaries.

Rush was a vocal critic of then-U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag, who filed asset forfeiture lawsuits against Harborside Health Center and Berkeley Patients Group, two of the biggest dispensaries in California — and, according to Rush’s attorneys, the union honcho’s outspokenness eventually made him a “clear target of the federal investigation.”

The feds “compensated and promised leniency to a motley crew of criminals and opportunists to create a case against him, a government onslaught that coincided with Mr. Rush’s vigorous efforts to make medical marijuana available to needy patients though distribution centers staffed by Union workers he helped organize under the auspices of the UFCW.”

For those reasons, his attorneys plan to file motions to dismiss the case alleging “outrageous government conduct” and vindictive prosecution.

Rush was initially scheduled to go to trial in October. On Monday, a federal judge agreed to delay Rush’s trial date to January 2017.

Do you think Rush was unfairly targeted?



  1. Sharon

    April 12, 2017 at 6:54 pm

    I grew up in a strong labor family, have an AA in Labor Studies, I have worked in the cannabis industry for 11 years, and graduated from Cal.

    This article is so ridiculous, and Dan Rush is a scammer!! While I worked at Waterfall in SF, this guy and his goons dropped off a contract that offered less than the cities minimum wage, was set for a 5-8 work schedule while we were scheduled 4-13’s (ie days a week – hours worked per day) and no call for healthcare. Our shops issue was our 13 hour days with a mandated two hour lunch and no overtime pay. …And we were supposed to ratify the contract the NEXT day with no union cards signed.. but since Rush and UFCW was brought in by the owner of our facility, we had to DECERT to get rid of him and his bunk contract, all because UFCW does top down organizing which calls for a “recognition” process. “Recognition” means the owners of the shop decides who represents the workers and not the employees themselves. Our shop actually had reports of employer retaliation because workers did NOT want to sign the contract; that’s a first I have ever heard of that.

    UFCW is still a scam on cannabis workers, and that’s why they arent able to get cards signed – at least Rush knew to keep the horrible contracts from the employees until last minute. I hope that the new leadership will progress our issues, but it seems like they are continuing on the same trajectory. I DO have hope that they can come with better contracts, but only if workers initiate their involvement.


    January 9, 2017 at 3:02 pm

    Dan Rush as a representative of the UFCW extorted resources and large amounts of money from AMCD Incorporated. Union representative Dan Rush after extorting vast resources demanded full control of AMCD Incorporated be given to his representative or the corporation be destroyed politically. Dan Rush is a opportunist and a liar. AMCD Incorporated’s founder have been activists since 1999 and held one of the first five permits issued in the history of the United States of America on West Grand Avenue in Oakland California from 2001 to 2006.

  3. Christine Calderon

    December 15, 2016 at 6:42 am

    hell yeah he was unfairly targeted. His lawyer did all the dirty deeds o my friggin gawd. What kind of a lawyer wears a wire against his long time client? There is huge gags on this case and bunch of scoundrels sipping margaritas at the goverments expense. Dan Rush didn’t take money he couldn’t pay back his lawyer did. ad naseum

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