Teamsters and Cops Team Up Against California Weed—Because Losers?

There oughta be a law, and the numbers look like there will be.

Historically, labor unions have been a great power in advancing the quality of life for American workers. Decade upon decade, our nation’s police forces have been instrumental in maintaining law and order across this great land. And ever since the advent of the pilgrims’ first stockades, the prison guards of this country have done a bang-up job of ensuring that dangerous, caged convicts do not escape and wreak havoc in hamlet and townhouse.

All three of these august fraternities have failed the free people of California. As reported by The Intercept, officials from the California arm of the 1.4 million-member Teamsters union have allocated $25,000 in worker dues to the Coalition for Responsible Drug Policies, a lobbying group funded by California police and prison groups. 

The Coalition for Responsible Drug Policies, believe it or not, is on a mission to derail California’s Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA). Also known as Sean Parker’s Adult Use of Marijuana Act, in honor of a former Facebook employee who has kicked in a half-ton of dough in the cause of making marijuana a legal product, the AUMA is poised to go on a statewide California ballot this November. If enacted, the new law will grant 21-and-over adults free-range possession of up to an ounce of weed that will be taxed 15 percent at retail.

Motivation for cops and prison guards to oppose a general amnesty toward the state’s marijuana users are obvious and widely reported

Motivation for cops and prison guards to oppose a general amnesty toward the state’s marijuana users are obvious and widely reported: Police budgets have come to rely on lucrative asset-forfeiture policies that will be diminished if marijuana trafficking is no long a sanctioned area of investigation. For instance, marijuana-related asset seizures from 2002 to 2012 gave California law-enforcement an $18.4 million jackpot. Who wants to give up that kind of bonus bucks?

Though not Teamster run, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, the state’s prison guard union, is a powerful force in state politics. Its money and membership was instrumental in establishing a Three Strike law and defeating a measure that would have reduced the types of crimes carrying mandatory life sentences. The prison guards and administrators, apparently, want to ensure the prisoner supply chain remains steady.

Representatives for law enforcement and prisons tend to lean heavily on a law-and-order rationale in explaining their opposition to allowing a schoolteacher from Van Nuys to take a light toke while grading papers. Teamster opposition is more transparent, though perhaps also not fully justifiable.

The Teamsters, basically, are pissed off because the AUMA includes no wording that gives the Teamsters a cut of the legal weed proceeds.

From Buzzfeed:

“We favor a highly regulated and tiered model of distribution, similar to the way alcohol is regulated, where there’s an independent distributor that doesn’t grow or sell marijuana,” California Teamsters lobbyist Barry Broad told BuzzFeed News. “We could be supportive of an initiative if the regulatory structure was one that we thought appropriate.”

If effect, the Teamsters Union is bullying for a provision anointing it as a middleman between growers and dispensaries, an arrangement that could prove problematic, and not just because deliveries might be delayed if they happen to be scheduled around a meal break. Neither growers nor dispensaries—which in California are often owned by a single entity—are eager to allow the insertion of a profit-siphoning army of truck drivers between plant and storefront.

Sean Parker’s personal brand positions him as a smart, business-savvy guy. Maybe he’ll come up with a concession that will bring the Teamsters onboard. Or maybe Parker is playing the odds that Big Weed won’t need the Teamsters once the industry is up and running, and doesn’t need the Teamsters to get that industry legal.

The numbers are against the prohibitionists. Not only do polls show 60 percent of California’s likely voters in favor of legalizing adult cannabis use, supporters of recreational weed in California have raised $2.25 million for their cause. During the first three months of 2016, the Coalition for Responsible Drug Policies had scraped together $60,000, an amount that doesn’t begin to stack up against the $1 billion in annual tax revenue that California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates will be pulled in if the AUMA passes in November.

Money talks, and it's talking the language of elevation in California.