Oregon unions endorse Ballot Measure 91 to legalize marijuana


Oregon’s Ballot Measure 91, which would legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana, has attracted support from several local labor unions.

MarijuanaLeafAmerican Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 88 on Sept. 24 became the third union to endorse the measure. Local 88 represents employees of Multnomah County. Jason Heilbrun, Local 88 vice president and Political Action Committee chair, said the measure will generate new revenue — and public sector jobs — in things like public safety, schools, and senior services. Local 88 also supported the measure on the grounds that marijuana enforcement wastes police resources, and because criminal sentences create barriers to employment, housing and education loans for those convicted.

AFSCME Local 328, representing employees of Oregon Health and Science University, also voted to endorse Measure 91.

And United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 555, the state’s largest private sector union, is energetically backing the measure, in line with the union’s national policy. Local 555 Secretary-Treasurer Jeff Anderson said the union is contributing $35,000 to the campaign, and is working to register and educate voters and its own members.

Anderson said participants at Hempstalk — an annual festival calling for marijuana legalization — were surprised and pleased Sept. 28 when he came on stage in Portland’s Waterfront Park to announce his union’s support for the measure. UFCW represents about 600 cannabis workers in other states thus far, Anderson said, and passing Measure 91 is a priority for the national union.

“We look at this as a jobs issue,” Anderson said. “Our union is in a position to organize growers, retailers and medical dispensaries.”

One other labor organization — Northwest Oregon Labor Council — voted a resolution in favor of the measure, in the form of a recommendation that the Oregon AFL-CIO endorse it, but the board of the state labor federation declined to take action.

Twenty-three states including Oregon have legalized medical use of marijuana, and two states — Colorado and Washington — have legalized recreational use by adults. Full legalization is also on the ballot this year in Alaska.

The Oregon measure would allow the possession, manufacture, sale of marijuana by and to adults, subject to licensing, regulation, and taxation by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. Of the tax revenues generated, 40 percent would fund K-12 education, 20 percent would go to mental health and alcohol and drug treatment, 20 percent would go to local law enforcement, 15 percent to state police, and 5 percent to the Oregon Health Authority. Driving under the influence would still be against the law, and cities and counties would be allowed to prohibit retail sales.


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