N.J. medical marijuana dispensary workers withdraw petition to unionize – NJ.com

TRENTON — The United Food and Commercial Workers Union has withdrawn its petition to unionize the employees at the medical marijuana dispensary in Egg Harbor Township, ending what would have been legal battle with national implications for the burgeoning cannabis industry.
An official at the National Labor Relations Board in Philadelphia confirmed the hearing scheduled to take place in Philadelphia Wednesday was cancelled because the organizing petition was withdrawn by the union Local 152 Tuesday.
David Knowlton, a co-founder and board chairman of Compassionate Care Foundation alternative treatment center, said he was notified by the board of the cancelled proceeding but did not receive an explanation on why it had occurred.
But the case would have raised thorny legal questions because while state law permits medical marijuana to be grown and sold and consumed, those activities still violate federal law. As long as the federal government classifies cannabis as a “schedule one” unlawful drug with no medicinal value, like heroine and LSD, the conflict between state and federal laws will continue, legal and medicinal marijuana experts agree.
In an NJ Advance Media report on Sunday, Knowlton said he could not find a lawyer willing to represent him before the board because the rules of professional conduct say attorneys cannot advise or assist their clients engage in “conduct a lawyer knows is criminal or fraudulent.” State law created a medicinal marijuana program but to the federal government, growing and possessing marijuana remain illegal activities.
Knowlton said a labor board official suggested he contact the law firm of Ballard Spahr of Philadelphia, which at first offered to represent the financially struggling dispensary for free. It later withdrew the offer out of concern its attorneys could face ethics charges and put their licenses at risk, Knowlton said.
“If you make the argument we can’t be represented by counsel and we are committing a felony, how can the (National Labor Relations Board) use its weight as a federal agency to force us to unionize our workers to commit a federal felony?” Knowlton said.
On Wednesday, Knowlton said he had spoken to the hearing officer the day before and registered his objection with having to appear pro se. “It’s not fair,” he said.
An independent agency responsible for protecting employees’ rights investigating unfair labor practices, the labor board has never intervened in a case involving the legal marijuana industry’s right to organize. This case would have …Read More

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