Robert Chlala has been organizing and conducting socioeconomic and policy research in the cannabis industry in Los Angeles for more than 5 years, and has been involved in similar work for more than 12 years. He currently works with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 770 as the Social Equity Coordinator for cannabis. The union is the first to labor organization have unionized cannabis workers in California and has led the way on worker issues. They were also the first union and cannabis-related organization to hold regular expungement clinics – serving more than 1000 clients in one year alone. In his presentation, he will be presenting learning from California policy and practice on the changing industry, in the hopes to dialogue with those from diverse sectors in New England.
Robert has had a key role in working to shape policies to increase access to licensing, jobs, and tax revenue, helping birth LA’s groundbreaking social equity policy in cannabis. His work also includes building cross-cutting coalitions of community groups, industry, workers and policymakers to build consensus on and implement equitable policy and practice. His research is rooted in thinking about how significant social harms – like the War on Drugs in the US – can be transformed from the grassroots. Robert is also a researcher affiliated with the Program for Environmental and Regional Equity. He is completing a Ph.D. in Sociology and a dissertation on the changing industry that he hopes can help disseminate the lessons from cannabis to influence other urban policy. His work has been published by Jadaliyya, LA Taco, and other online venues, as well as academic and foundation publications.