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EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) — Add a new struggle for New Jersey's medical cannabis industry: Labor strife.
United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 152 says a majority of the 11 employees at the Compassionate Care Foundation in Egg Harbor Township have filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board.
The employees say the nonprofit dispensary retaliated after they tried to unionize by lowering wages and altering their hours.
Brian String, the president of Local 152, told The Philadelphia Inquirer (http://bit.ly/1ChbEeX ) that the dispensary was using "tricks from the usual anti-union playbook," including reclassifying employees as agricultural workers or supervisors to make them ineligible to organize under the National Labor Relations Act.
Compassionate Care CEO David Knowlton did not immediately return a call Thursday from The Associated Press. Lawyer Meredith Swartz, who is representing the dispensary, said she could not comment.
The NLRB is scheduled to hear the case March 16.
The medical marijuana industry has had a tough run in New Jersey since a law to allow medical cannabis was signed five years ago. Advocates say the drug can relieve pain and nausea and is useful in treating conditions including glaucoma and multiple sclerosis.
There were delays in approving dispensaries as the state government came up with rules for them.
And so far, just three of the six entities chosen to grow and sell medical marijuana have opened to patients. A fourth is growing the drug but not yet selling it. Those that are open have sometimes struggled to have enough inventory to meet demand.
Compassionate Care, located in a former casino warehouse outside Atlantic City, has about 900 patients.
Last year, its founding CEO, who has complained about the state's rules for medical marijuana, resigned abruptly. And in July, workers took what was billed as a temporary pay cut.
The workers attempted to unionize after their pay wasn't restored. They filed their complaints last month.
An informal NLRB ruling last year determined that workers at a Maine dispensary are allowed to unionize.
Local 152 says the marijuana workers make $12 to $25 an hour.
Information from: The Philadelphia Inquirer, http://www.inquirer.com