A new organization, The Cannabis Workers Coalition, is working to transform the disconnect between Oregon’s cannabis industry and the communities it serves by protecting workers, diversifying the industry, and enacting legislative change, as reported by Willamette Week.
While the cannabis industry is reaping the benefits of its successes, some customers are still feeling the effects of prior criminal convictions. Though recreational cannabis was legalized in Oregon in 2014, those charged with drug crimes in the years before its legalization are still affected on housing and employment opportunities, voting and firearm rights, and more.
To help bridge this gap between the cannabis industry and community, The Cannabis Workers Coalition will be officially launching this week with a conviction expungement clinic at NW Cannabis Club in Portland. This event will include opportunities for attendees to have their records cleared and get housing assistance, food assistance enrollment and legal advice. Guests can even receive a marijuana handler permit at the event if they want.
Team members from the Cannabis Workers Coalition Jessica Ortiz and Savina Monet told Willamette Week they chose the expungement clinic as their public introduction because they wanted to provide a safe space where people can gather, acquire information, and get educated on the next steps with a focus on assisting underserved communities.
Another team member, Jagger Blaec, commented that expungement clinics such as the one they’re hosting are critical in breaking down gatekeeping and building access for those affected by their marijuana conviction.
Blaec, Monet, and Ortiz told Willamette Week they believe the state’s slowness to implement broad restorative justice for cannabis-related issues is a systemic problem and is rooted in white supremacy.
“When it’s white people in charge, it takes so much longer because there’s no urgency behind a lot of the issues they’re trying to dismantle,” Monet said.
Because the Cannabis Workers Coalition is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, it acts as both a social welfare organization and labor union, giving it the ability to assist with a wide array of issues, including employee representation, mediation, education, discrimination cases, and more, all at no cost for worker members. Instead of charging employees’ dues, employers will pay monthly dues for their employees’ rights.
The expungement clinic hosted by The Cannabis Workers Coalition is located at the NW Cannabis Club at 1195 SE Powell Blvd. and takes place on Friday, Sept. 18 from noon to six pm.
By Cara Nixon