Marijuana trimmers at this farm were paid $200 for every pound trimmed. Credit: Andrew Burton for Reveal

The cannabis workers protection bill is moving swiftly through the California Assembly.

At a hearing today, members of the Business and Professions Committee voted to move the bill forward after brief testimony from its sponsor, the UFCW Western States Council. The Assembly Committee on Labor and Employment will hear the bill next.

“Last fall, The Center for Investigative Reporting uncovered horrendous practices by some cannabis operators, taking complete advantage of farmworkers, especially young women, who were working in isolated environments, making them vulnerable to physical abuse and harassment,” said Sam Rodriguez, the council’s legislative director. “Working with the industry, we identified an online Cal/OSHA (another name for the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health) course to help both employer and employees become aware of existing law.”

Assemblyman Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove, introduced the bill in response to an investigation by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting that uncovered widespread sexual harassment and abuse of female workers in California’s marijuana-growing industry. Reveal found that migrant workers, known as trimmigrants, are particularly vulnerable to abuse.

The bill would require marijuana business owners to put at least one employee through a 30-hour state training program within one year of receiving a license. It’s an education that many in the industry believe growers and workers desperately need. Even as marijuana growers come out of the shadows and apply for state licensure, many remain unaware of their requirements under the law.

“It’s a great first step,” said Roy Sianez, Cooper’s legislative director. “Having that employee go through the training – they become the eyes and the ears.”

Shoshana Walter can be reached at Follow her on Twitter: @shoeshine.

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Shoshana Walter was a senior reporter and producer at Reveal, covering the criminal justice and child welfare systems. She's working on a book for Simon & Schuster about the failures of our country's addiction treatment system. At Reveal, she reported on exploitative drug rehab programs that require participants to work without pay, armed security guards, and sex abuse and trafficking in the marijuana industry. Her reporting has prompted new laws, numerous class-action lawsuits and government investigations. Her stories have been named finalists for the Pulitzer Prize, Selden Ring and National Magazine Awards. She has also been honored with the Livingston Award for National Reporting, the IRE medal, the Edward R. Murrow award, the Knight Award for Public Service, a Loeb Award and Sigma Delta Chi Award for investigative reporting. Her Reveal podcast, "American Rehab," was named one of the best podcasts of the year by The New Yorker and The Atlantic and prompted a congressional investigation.

Walter began her career as a police reporter for The Ledger in Lakeland, Florida, and previously covered violent crime and the politics of policing in Oakland, California, for The Bay Citizen. A graduate of Mount Holyoke College, she has been a Dart Center Ochberg fellow for journalism and trauma at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and a John Jay/Harry Frank Guggenheim fellow in criminal justice journalism. She is a fellow with the Watchdog Writers Group at the University of Missouri School of Journalism and is based in Oakland, California.