As I sit in Ohio writing this, I am cognizant of the swelling effort to legalize marijuana within my state. ResponsibleOhio, the group spearheading the effort, recently released the names of supporters and backers of a bill that would allow Ohio voters to determine whether, and to what extent, marijuana could become legal in my state.
I am also aware that the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) has actively tried, and often succeeded, in organizing companies involved in the lawful growing, harvesting, and retail selling of legalized marijuana. But, the National Labor Relations Board has never ruled on whether it, an agency of the federal government, has jurisdiction over a company that is illegal on the federal level or whether the National Labor Relations Act even applies to companies and workers in this space. The Board will soon answer these questions.
The UFCW has been organizing Compassionate Care Foundation, an operator of a medical marijuana dispensary in New Jersey. According to the union, the company has engaged in activities that are unlawful under the Act with the intent to remain union-free. The union alleges that the company has used “tricks from the usual anti-union play book” to deny union protection for the workers, including reclassifying employees as supervisors or agricultural workers – neither of whom are permitted to join unions under the National Labor Relations Act.
On February 4, 2015, the Board has, for the first time, held a hearing to address a case involving the medical marijuana industry. From that, it will decide if it will attempt to exercise jurisdiction over an industry that is still federally illegal. I bet it finds that it has jurisdiction. The recent NLRB has continuously extended its jurisdiction into remote places never dreamt of by the creators of the Act; I don’t expect it to stop now.