Cannabis stores begin to close, the ‘collateral damage’ of the strike

Cannabis stores in British Columbia have begun to close as their only source of supply was cut off by a 10-day strike.

Cannabis stores in British Columbia have already begun to close as their only source of supply was cut off by a 10-day strike by the BC General Employees Union at government distribution warehouses

Burb, which has five outlets including one in Saanich, closed one of its two stores in Port Coquitlam and another in Port Moody on Wednesday, putting about 20 to 25 people out of work. Leftover inventory from these two stores is transferred to its other store in Port Coquitlam. Depending on customer volumes, he could keep that store open for another week.

Hours of operation have also been reduced at Burb stores in Vancouver and Saanich.

Clayton Chessa, co-founder and COO of Burb, said that if the strike is not resolved quickly, or if a workaround is not developed for cannabis supply, other stores will also be closed.

He doesn’t have much to do but hopes there will be a quick resolution to the strike.

« The economic impact is significant, » Chessa said. « It just doesn’t seem right that an entire industry be destroyed as collateral damage for someone else’s decisions. »

The provincially regulated cannabis retail sector, which began after the legalization of marijuana in Canada in 2018, has more than 400 private retail stores in British Columbia and more than 30 government-owned stores, employing approximately 5,000 people.

Representatives of cannabis retailers said the biggest concern beyond the economic fallout and possible business collapse is that they have worked hard to build trust and acceptance in the legal cannabis sector over the past few years. last four years.

Now that is being destroyed and customers will more than likely turn to the illicit market, said Spensir Sangara, owner of THC Canada, which has a store on Main Street in Vancouver. That’s also true for people who use medical marijuana and get their supplies from retail stores, he said.

“It brings people back to the black market,” Sangara said.

THC had just received a delivery of cannabis before the strike, so Sangara said his store was in a slightly better position than some.

But if the strike continues for a few weeks, all stores will close, he said.

Jaclynn Pehota, executive director of the Retail Cannabis Council of BC, said there was a provincial initiative to allow retail outlets to buy directly from growers in British Columbia that was due to start earlier this week. last, just at the start of the strike. That program has now stopped, she said.

« It’s a real monopoly in terms of supply, » Pehota said.

B.C.’s Ministry of Finance and Liquor Distribution Branch did not immediately respond to questions on Wednesday about the initiative or whether there are plans for other ways to supply cannabis to retail stores in the province. ‘interval.

Private liquor stores, pubs and restaurants can source beer and wine, and to a lesser extent spirits such as vodka and gin, directly from local producers. But cannabis retailers can only buy their product directly from the government’s Liquor Distribution Branch distribution and wholesale centers in Delta, Richmond, Kamloops and Victoria.

The BCGEU, which represents 33,000 workers, agreed on Tuesday to resume negotiations at the request of the province. What it will take to reach a settlement is unclear.

The parties are locked in a high-stakes negotiation, with the BCGEU likely setting the standard for 400,000 public sector workers whose contracts end this year. The province tries to minimize the increase in the total cost of these facilities in its annual operating budget.

The union appears to be seeking wage increases that would cover inflation, which currently sits at 8% in Canada, a far cry from the roughly 3.5% a year offered by the province.


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