The NAACP has reaffirmed its support for legalizing cannabis at the federal level while adopting a new position expressing support for workers in the cannabis industry and their right to unionize. At the 114th NAACP National Convention held in late July, the nation’s oldest civil rights organization voted on several policy resolutions, including one that reaffirmed its support for cannabis resolution at the federal level.
The NAACP has been an active voice in cannabis policy reform issues since at least 2010, when the group called for a national study on the enforcement of the country’s marijuana prohibition laws and the resulting impact on Black Americans and cannabis. In 2016, the organization called for uniform decriminalization of possession of one ounce of marijuana or less and the pardon of persons convicted of nonviolent marijuana-related offenses. Three years later, the NAACP deepened its commitment to reform by expressing support for broader marijuana decriminalization and the regulation of the medical and adult-use cannabis industries, positions that were reiterated in this year’s resolution.
In 2021, the NAACP adopted a resolution calling for greater opportunity for African Americans in the regulated cannabis industry and demanding greater Black ownership and employment opportunity in the cannabis industry. Last year, the group added its voice to those seeking legislation to give companies in the regulated cannabis industry access to traditional banking services, including fair terms and interest rates for Black-owned and social equity cannabis businesses.
For the first time, this year’s resolution, which was adopted at last month’s convention without discussion, also includes support for workers in the cannabis industry and regulations mandating labor peace agreements, noting that “the majority of people in the cannabis industry will be workers rather than owners.” The resolution also maintains that “the workers who grow, process, test, distribute, and sell cannabis deserve a fair and safe workplace and family-sustaining job like every other worker.”
“NAACP calls for the legalization and de-scheduling of cannabis at the federal level and reaffirms its past resolutions on cannabis, the cannabis industries, decriminalization, and equity, and expresses an intent to advocate for federal, state, and local medical and adult-use cannabis legislation that includes labor peace agreements as a condition of licensure,” the cannabis resolution states.
Support for Cannabis Industry Workers Union Representation
The resolution also maintains that support for workers, including union representation, apprenticeships and education programs, can help promote diversity in the regulated cannabis industry, giving communities that have borne the brunt of decades of marijuana prohibition an opportunity to benefit from cannabis policy reform.
“Access to union representation, training and apprenticeship will help ensure that a broad range of workers can benefit from the cannabis industry, especially workers from communities that have been disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition in the past,” the resolution states.
The NAACP cannabis resolution also called for cannabis policy reform legislation that “ensures all cannabis workers from cultivation to sale to delivery are treated as employees under the National Labor Relations Act, Fair Labor Standards Act and Occupational Safety and Health Administration; including the right to join, form or organize a union.” NAACP CEO Derrick Johnson said the resolution is intended to help foster a regulated cannabis industry that includes opportunities for Black Americans that have been lacking under current legislative and regulatory models.
“As the cannabis industry continues to expand, we must center Black interests for both workers and entrepreneurs, as one of the ways to right the decades-long injustices we have faced at the hands of the ‘War on Drugs,’” Johnson said in a statement following the adoption of the resolution. “Over the past several years, the cannabis industry has seen exponential growth and prosperity without progress for Black workers. This cannot continue. The NAACP is committed to ensuring that as this industry grows, benefits to Black workers grow with it. That’s what thriving together looks like.”
The NAACP’s cannabis resolution calling for support for workers in the industry was welcomed by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), a labor union that represents employees of cannabis companies in several states that have legalized marijuana. In a statement, UFCW International President Marc Perrone applauded the NAACP and thanked the organization for “acknowledging the importance of cannabis organizing in achieving racial equity and making sure workers’ voices are heard at every level of the cannabis industry.”
“This marks a crucial step forward in making sure employers and legislators understand the profound impact that a worker-friendly cannabis industry could have on people of color,” Perrone said. “Cannabis industry workers, like every other worker, deserve safe workplaces and family-sustaining jobs. This is especially true for the formerly incarcerated and others disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs.”