Pubdate: Thu, 20 Aug 2015
Source: SF Weekly (CA)
Column: Chem Tales
Copyright: 2015 Village Voice Media
Author: Chris Roberts


His indictment is barely a week old, but many of his former friends 
in organized labor and the cannabis industry have already buried Dan Rush.

Rush, 54, was once the gregarious director of the United Food and 
Commercial Workers' national medical cannabis and hemp division; on 
Aug. 10, he was indicted in federal court on two felony counts of 
violating labor law.

The lifelong union man - the first labor organizer to make a serious 
effort to bring the nascent marijuana industry on board in 2010 - is 
accused of selling out those same workers in order to pay off a debt.

In January 2010, before UFCW had signed up a single trimmer, 
budtender, or joint-roller, Rush allegedly took a $600,000 cash loan 
from an Oakland marijuana grower in order to pay off a private 
hard-money loan that Rush had taken out on his home.

After informing the grower that he'd be unable to repay, Rush 
allegedly offered services in kind. Rush would help his lenders open 
a new dispensary in Las Vegas and ensure the dispensary would never 
be union, according to an affidavit filed by the FBI.

The FBI had been looking into Rush since 2012, following a tip from 
his creditors, who include the owners of a local dispensary and 
officers from Terra Tech, one of the largest publicly-traded cannabis 
companies in the country.

UFCW wasted no time in parting with Rush, informing the media on the 
day the indictment became public that Rush had been "terminated."

Rush did not respond to a message seeking comment. Out on bail, he's 
been active on social media, posting on Facebook support for the 
union and "our members."

His attorney, William Osterhoudt, noted in a statement to the press 
that the indictment is based on the testimony of "informants" and 
"cooperators." "[He] should not be vilified or deprived of his 
livelihood on the basis of unproven accusations," Osterhoudt wrote.

"We don't want to pre convict him ... but these charges are very 
disappointing," said Dale Sky Jones, who worked with Rush on the 
Prop. 19 legalization campaign in 2010.

Jones is chairwoman of the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform - 
- -one of the groups working to legalize cannabis in California on next 
year's ballot. Rush was a board member of CCPR until last year.

Here are some initial takeaways.

Rush was everywhere. He had a hand in Prop. 19, he pushed to expand 
Oakland and Berkeley's number of allowed cannabis dispensary permits, 
he lobbied and organized in support of union dispensaries in San 
Francisco, and he was a big backer of Measure D, the controversial 
ballot initiative that limited the number of dispensaries in Los 
Angeles. As of press deadline, he was still a sitting member of the 
city of Berkeley's Medical Cannabis Commission. He also had a close 
enough relationship with Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom to have Newsom, now 
legalization's top public proponent, appear at his labor events.

Rush was also involved in the efforts to legalize medical marijuana 
in New York and Minnesota. Other UFCW operatives are lobbying for 
legalization in Ohio. That such a player has been indicted will only 
help the prohibitionists.

The cannabis industry hasn't grown up yet. All week, marijuana 
industry insiders have been buzzing about the case and lobbing harsh 
words - but not at Rush. Instead, they're angry at Carl Andersen, 
Martin Kaufman, and Derek Peterson, the three cannabis industry 
players who went to the FBI. (None appear queued up for indictments).

Kaufman is a big-time grower by reputation. Peterson is CEO of 
publicly traded Terra Tech, which has four dispensary permits in 
Nevada. Peterson and business partner Salwa Ibrahim are the owners of 
Blum dispensary in Oakland. Blum is also applying for a permit in Berkeley.

For going to the authorities and cooperating with the FBI against 
Rush, they've been branded as "snitches." This is an industry that 
wants to be legit and play by the rules, but some black market habits die hard.

Rush was not great with money. Always quick to pick up a check for 
his industry colleagues, Rush was known for spending lavishly. "He 
was a baller," one industry insider told me. He also filed for 
Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection in 2005, an affair that had just 
wrapped up by the time he allegedly took his first cash loan from 
Kaufman. According to the affidavit, he spent $2,000 a month on 
bills, flights, jewelry, cigarettes, and at "Indian casinos." This 
could just be a story of one man unable to manage his finances.

He had real connections to the Hells Angels. Rumors of close ties to 
the Oakland-bred motorcycle club have dogged Rush for years, and with 
good reason. In addition to growing up with Angels and riding with 
Angels, Rush also paid the motorcycle club's cell phone bills, 
according to his indictment. Why he did this, and whether it was a 
quid pro quo arrangement, nobody can say, though "biker gangs" have 
been involved with the illicit marijuana industry since the 1960s.

More indictments are coming. Oakland labor attorney Marc Terbeek 
allegedly gave Rush kickbacks in return for Rush sending clients his 
way. Terbeek also aided the FBI by wearing a wire and having his 
phone tapped when talking with Rush. Terbeek is cooperating with 
authorities but may yet be indicted, the FBI affidavit suggested. He 
may not be alone.
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