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  • Union Official High On Power Extorts Marijuana Dispensaries

    Union official Daniel Rush was indicted by a federal grand jury Thursday for allegedly extorting cash and favors from marijuana dispensaries in Oakland, Calif.

    Federal prosecutors told KRON-TV the charges include taking illegal payments as a union employee, honest services fraud, attempted extortion and money laundering. The United Food and Commercial Workers union (UFCW) has been at the forefront of organizing workers in the newly emerging marijuana industry. Rush served as the executive director of the UFCW cannabis division.

    Rush was charged in August and was soon after fired from his position with UFCW. Rush allegedly used his influence to get cash or other benefits between 2010 and 2014. In some cases, the indictment alleges, he undermined his own union for personal gain. The charges say he endorsed dispensaries and told them how to defeat unionizing campaigns.

    Rush was charged after an investigation by the FBI. According to the Center for Union Facts, Rush was getting paid $121,124 in total compensation from the UFCW. He has since denied the charges. His lawyer, William Osterhoudt, has argued his treatment has been unjust.

    “Mr. Rush has been summarily terminated from his position as,” Osterhoudt said in a statement. “This treatment of Mr. Rush is entirely unjustified. He has given the better part of his adult life to the Union Movement and has served the UFCW honorably for many years.”

    The union campaign into the industry has been extensive. The UFCW successfully finalized the first ever union contract for cannabis workers in Washington state back in June. It also joined farm workers and supporters in a call for Ohio to legalize the drug.

    The federal government outlawed the sale, possession and use of marijuana in a series of laws primarily enacted in the 1930s. Several states in the last few years have already legalized the drug with many more either decriminalizing it or allowing it for medical purposes.

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