NEW ORLEANS – Teamsters joined with experts today to discuss the future of the fledgling cannabis industry and what it means for jobs in the wake of additional states legalizing the distribution and sale of the once-illegal product.

As part of a panel at the annual Netroots Nation conference here, union leaders, workers and industry authorities agreed that hundreds of thousands of hardworking Americans could benefit from the ground-up creation of a now legitimized industry. But that will only happen if unions and elected officials can come together to craft rules that bring transparency to the process.

“This industry was an all underground industry until recently, and the Teamsters are the enemy of the underground economy,” said Barry Broad, the Teamsters’ chief lobbyist in California. “We want people to pay their taxes and get Social Security.”

The union also wants workers to have protections when it comes to health, safety and law enforcement, issues that continue to be a challenge when state and federal laws run counter to one another and there is no uniform standards.

Richard Rodriguez, a distribution driver with RVR Distribution in California and a Local 853 member, experienced that first hand when he was arrested while transporting marijuana. He was taken into custody and held for 15 hours. Ultimately, he credited the Teamsters helping to sort of the issue and having the charges dropped.