The Zen Leaf dispensary in Lombard, Illinois is the center of a union representation struggle between United Food and Commercial Workers and Teamsters. Credit: Zen Leaf / Instagram

While it might seem like the Midwest is undergoing a wave of cannabis dispensary unionization, a withdrawal and voting delays are showing that some dispensaries aren’t ready for a union.

After great fanfare, the first Missouri dispensary with an announced unionization vote announced an organization petition withdrawal yesterday. United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 655 announced earlier this month that the six workers at Beleaf’s Swade dispensary in St. Louis’ Grove neighborhood would take a vote. But Thursday that announcement got rolled back, confirmed Collin Reischman, spokesman for Local 655.

Meanwhile, however, Local 655 filed for a union election for eight workers at a Root 66 dispensary in St. Louis. 

“Compared to other dispensaries, they are not paid as well and don’t have benefits. They’re not making $15 an hour and they don’t have hardly any benefits at all,” said Rieichman. A vote has not been scheduled, but one is expected within the next six weeks.

Root 66 and Swade did not respond to requests for comment by publication.

In Newark, Ohio, a vote for 15 workers at a Curaleaf-owned Herbology Dispensary near Columbus originally scheduled for January 18 has been delayed at least a month, says UFCW Local 1059 President Randy Quickel.

Quickel blames the delays, which is by mail-in ballot rather than in-person, on problems with the postal service.

“There are concerns with the mail. They are waiting for more ballots to come through,” he said yesterday.

Another mail-in vote for 22 workers at a Cresco-owned Sunnyside Dispensary in Cincinnati began on January 5, with ballot counting on Feb. 7th. Results are expected on Feb. 8 says UFCW 1055 spokesperson Bill Benner. 

“The board is really pushing the vote by mail,” said Benner, referring to the National Labor Relations Board.

In Illinois, UCFW Local 881 filed for elections at two more dispensaries in the last two weeks. One, for 48 workers at Green Thumb Industries Rise dispensary in Lake in the Hills, and another for 38 workers at Ascend Wellness’ dispensary in Springfield. 

Illinois, a hotbed of union organizing, currently has six sites up for organization votes. Besides the two dispensaries filed last week, UFCW Local 881 is attempting to organize workers at a Verano Holdings Zen Leaf dispensary in Highland Park. Meanwhile, Teamsters Local 777, is working to unionize 19 workers at the Zen Leaf in Highland, as well as attempting to organize 15 PharmaCann call center workers in Schaumburg, and a Revolution Global dispensary in the same town.

Neither UFCW Local 881 or Teamsters Local 777 responded to requests for comment by publication.

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that UFCW and Teamsters were competing to unionize Zen Leaf Lombard.


Editor Mike is a co-founder and the editor of Grown In, a U.S. national cannabis industry newsletter and training company. His career has taken him from Capitol Hill to Chicago City Hall, from...