CA Union Organizer Accused of Taking Bribes from Cannabis Industry Players

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CA Union Organizer Accused of Taking Bribes from Cannabis Industry Players

Former Union organizer Dan Rush, once called "Superman" in the CA cannabis industry, at his Oakland home. (Photo: Michael Ares, SF Weekly)

Many in the cannabis community and those of us who cover cannabis news are familiar with the name Dan Rush. Prominent in the California political scene, he was a stalwart supporter of marijuana and marijuana legalization in his capacity as an organizer for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union in the state. Rush is now facing serious federal charges.

The federal government alleges that, in a nutshell, Rush took out huge loans from people in the cannabis industry and when he couldn’t pay them back, he started paying back in favors and efforts to keep the Union out of the industry, namely out of the shops belonging to his financial benefactors. He also promised Union seal of approval of his benefactors’ interests in Nevada.

A long investigation is now coming to light — an investigation that involved recorded conversations and several people cooperating with authorities. In addition to his loan problems, it is alleged that Rush was taking kickbacks from a lawyer named Marc Terbeek, who represented medical marijuana dispensary operators.  

The loans themselves, some $600,000 worth, came from Martin Kaufman, a dispensary operator in Oakland, CA, and one of the operators of BLUM Oakland. Kaufman began helping the feds in 2013 and is also a major owner of a company called Terra Tech, which has had a nice run on the stock market as of late.

For their part, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union issued a statement about Dan Rush:

"To be clear, Mr. Rush has been terminated. The UFCW holds all of its employees to the highest standards, and we expect that they perform their responsibilities with integrity and honor. What Mr. Rush has been accused of is not only shocking to us, it is a betrayal for what we at the UFCW stand for.

"Going forward, the UFCW will undertake a full review of Rush's activities to determine if any worker or their family were adversely affected by his activities and if so take appropriate corrective action.”

As for the effects this will have on the cannabis industry and movement itself, it certainly can’t be spun as a good thing. Cannabis has yet to totally shed its stigma of shadiness, and stories like this don’t help matters. But there is corruption and bad seeds in every industry, so this can’t be held against the cannabis movement as a whole. Not that those who oppose legalization and medical marijuana won’t try.

In the end, people will plea, they will bargain, some will be punished and most will move on. The cannabis industry won’t be scarred permanently, but it will take a bit of a black eye in the news, as this is the type of story that news organizations love. It has large amounts of money, corruption, backroom dealings, secret recordings, raids and a young and controversial industry. It has a once-powerful man who allegedly abused his power for his own monetary advancement and pleasure while turning his back on those he claimed to represent.

When the mighty fall, we all watch the journey down.