With cannabis dispensaries in St. Louis and Kansas City voting to unionize, marijuana manufacturing employees are being left to wonder whether they are considered agricultural workers and will be subsequently rendered disqualified. Efforts to rally stores to vote started promising for United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) representatives.

According to the lead organizer with UFCW Local 655, Sean Shannon, on the first day, “reception was out-of-this-world positive. Workers were so excited.” Shannon and fellow UFCW representative Danny Foster donned matching shirts with the words “Union For Cannabis Workers.” They entered multiple dispensaries throughout Missouri, where they spoke with workers about the prospect of unionizing. Shannon said, “The first day, there were 57 stops amongst the teams.”

With a plan to visit all of the roughly 100 dispensaries across the eastern side of Missouri—twice—Shannon gathered together a dozen organizers to assist Local 655 with the outreach. Recruiting organizers proved minimal effort as excitement has been in the air since the union’s major win of a recent settlement, where a collective $145,000 was awarded to ten Shangri-La South dispensary workers in Columbia. The ten workers in this instance were initially fired after a union organizing drive in March.

Shannon referenced the recent settlement, saying, “They were excited to hear that Shangri-La [employees] actually won.” He continued, “They couldn’t believe people were getting their jobs back. They couldn’t believe the amount of money.” However, the overwhelmingly positive reception began to cool by the third day after managers reportedly warned their counterparts that union reps might be visiting their stores.

According to Shannon, “Employees were basically told, ‘If you talk to the union, if you take a card, if you take a sticker, you’re out.’” Shannon says that despite this, union activity has effectively “blown up” since the tour first started, and Local 655 is now authorized to represent over 20 locations around eastern Missouri.

According to Shannon, employees have been moving toward unions because the initial thrill of simply working with cannabis for a living is beginning to wear off. The stark reality that employees are being underpaid and sometimes working in poor conditions with no job stability is setting in. Foster, a former dispensary employee helping the tour, said, “We really weren’t given the industry that we were promised.” He continued, “We all came in super excited. We love cannabis. We wanted to be able to make it a career. But as it is right now, cannabis isn’t a career.”

Andrew Nussbaum, the most veteran employee at Shangri-La dispensary in Columbia, spoke on the motivation to unionize, calling it primarily a push for job security. Nussbaum was among the ten workers who were ultimately found to have been wrongfully terminated in a settlement that also opened their window to unionize. However, while that instance has been settled, a separate battle rages on concerning the technical status of marijuana workers. The 1935 National Labor Relations Act, which grants employees the protected right to seek favorable working conditions, does not apply to agricultural laborers.

Shannon has called it a frustrating “gray area” as companies argue whether cannabis employees are manufacturer workers or agricultural workers. It is unclear how long it will take before the board decides, but that decision is guaranteed to be closely reviewed nationwide.