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Obama Ignores America’s Fastest-Growing Industry in State of the Union Address

President Barack Obama delivers the State of Union address before Congress on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014 | Cannabis Now Magazine (AP Photo/Larry Downing, Pool)
President Barack Obama delivers the State of Union address before a joint session of Congress Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Larry Downing, Pool)

Joint Opinions

Obama Ignores America’s Fastest-Growing Industry in State of the Union Address

During last night’s State of the Union address, President Obama made the controversial declaration that he would sign an executive order raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour for federal contract workers. Notably absent from his speech was any mention of the fastest-growing industry in America, an industry that has consistently and voluntarily paid its workers above the minimum wage, even at lower skilled entry level positions.

In 1980, the federal minimum wage was $3.10 per hour, which adjusted for inflation would be about $8.76 today. The current minimum wage has been so devalued in terms of cost of living that one in every six Americans live below the federal poverty level. Assuming an employee is working 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year (no vacation or days off), she would earn a yearly salary of approximately $15,000. A yearly salary of $15,000 is considered pretty poor in almost any region, but even then a single American is not considered to be in poverty by federal guidelines unless they are earning $11,490 a year or less.

In 2012, two states legalized recreational sales of marijuana. In 2014, we have seen legal recreational sales begin in Colorado and are anticipating the start in Washington State. California has toyed with legalization since 2010, and although recreational sales aren’t yet legal, the medical industry has created a wealth of jobs that pay above the minimum wage even for entry level and unskilled labor positions. Most legally operated and regulated dispensaries also offer benefits and opportunity for advancement.

According to Aaron Justis, President of Buds & Roses Collective in Studio City, Calif., it is industry standard to pay above minimum wage and cultivate dedicated employees for advanced positions.

“We look for long-term employees passionate about their job. We pay between $12-16 an hour for most positions,” Justis said.

He says it is difficult to provide these living wages to employees as well as benefits, workers’ compensation, city taxes, state taxes and liability insurance. But, he posits, it is worth the cost because his business is looking at long-term success, and high employee turnover is expensive for a small business in a fast-growing industry.

“[Cannabis industry jobs] don’t start at minimum wage,” says Anna Foster, Executive Assistant at Dark Heart Nursery in Oakland, Calif. “In our nursery, employees start at $17 an hour.”

“The dispensaries I have worked for and with over the past seven years have all offered benefits, from health and dental insurance to 401ks and have started above minimum wage,” says Rachael Szmajda also of Oakland, Calif., “Starting rates with dispensaries range from $12-16 an hour depending on the position being filled, California’s minimum wage was just this last year, in July, raised from $8 to $9 an hour.”

Since Barack Obama took office in 2009, Drug War spending to raid, arrest and prosecute marijuana offenses has increased, despite mountains of valid research proving the efficacy of medical marijuana, the overall safety of cannabis as compared to other intoxicants and the needed economic boon it has provided to a nation hard hit by war spending and government infighting.

Yet, Obama has consistently laughed off the topic in his public dialogues, and just last week said he thought it was no more dangerous than alcohol (in fact, it’s less dangerous, if not altogether benign). His administration has paid lip service to the pro-legalization and medical movements, but has made no significant step to stop the wasteful prosecution of cannabis users, producers and small businesses amid the worst economic recession since the Great Depression.

Change we can believe in would be acknowledging not just scientific research and fiscal waste in our current drug policies, but also embracing an industry that could improve the quality of life of so many Americans.

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. TooReal

    January 31, 2014 at 1:38 am

    Im tired of people blaming immigrants. They are here for the American so called dream fool! Remember the saying “bring me your tired,your hungry and your poor” let’s not forget this country was built on the slave labor of africans and if you as a privileged white person can’t get hired before some foreigner/immigrant worker suck it up!

  2. Tiger

    January 30, 2014 at 5:44 am

    He will destroy this economy! Raising the minimum wage that high! WTH I’m a full time college student at a 40,000$ college and my boyfriend just went to school for 4 years to make 20$ and hour. Our pay will freeze and gas will go up cost of living will go up and everything else. And now anyone can make the money we are working hard for. He’s crazy now all businesses will be picking people with no experience so they don’t have to pay degrees. And little businesses trying to make it won’t. This is stupid as hell and I regret ever voting for him. Tye way I see it if u can’t afford a child don’t have one. He should be working on population control. My boyfriend works in a hospital and these Indian, and African Somalians all have these jobs and actual hard working Americans are getting shit on u wonder why poverty is so high because u keep letting these Mexican and somalian people in and get jobs easy as shit that your Americans are working hard for. Population and border control. I’m paying 40,000$ dollars, no scholarships offered to go be a culinary arts professional only to make 4$ more than minimum wage. Your horrible. He is horrible. I thought he was gonna help us! Somalians treat Americans like shit. Beating women and rude and are just over taking our cities. My boyfriend and I worked our asses of to graduate the degrees we did, and now everything is gonna go up, and our pay will stay the same and why raise it?! Now rent and everything is gonna go up gas, everything. And your just going to have to raise it again. Then they will be making the same as us degree workers. Building new apartments that nobody can get into because they deny unless u have a perfect credit score, wich people have made mistakes in the past and can’t afford to pay off their debt including student loans because we spent all our time getting degrees and staying at frozen pay while people not getting degrees just sit and wait for minimum wage to go up. Your ruining everything!!!

    • Val

      January 31, 2014 at 6:40 am

      Honey if you’re so upset about how expensive going to college is, I suggest you leave the school you’re at.. they’ve obviously not taught you well enough how to use proper spelling and grammar. I wish you the best of luck on your long journey through beginning english 🙂

      -stay high my friends

  3. wayne nelson

    January 29, 2014 at 12:59 pm

    i would like to get on ground floor,ohio will have it soon,i have glacoma and many other disorders it helps with . i d love to work but cant not in caliland
    much money to live there .

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