BC government union cuts off cannabis supply

Published on August 19, 2022 by David Wylie

Photo: David Wylie/the oz.

Striking BC government workers continue to target cannabis supply—cutting off the flow of product to both provincially run BC Cannabis Stores and private retailers.

The strike has already had an impact, with at least one store in the Okanagan shutting down temporarily and others running low on stock.

Smaller producers have complained their products are stuck at distribution centres.

Picket lines went up outside four BC Liquor Distribution Branch wholesale and distribution centres on Monday, as targeted job action began.

However, the BC General Employees’ Union says that workers at provincial cannabis stores would report as usual until advised otherwise.

“Retail liquor and cannabis stores will not be part of this phase of job action,” says the BCGEU in a news release.

Cory Waldron, CEO of retailer Mood Cannabis which has two stores in Nanaimo, says it appears government stores were well aware of the upcoming strike and have had ample time to increase their own stock in preparation.

“This is where the conflict of interest lies; and unfortunately the privately-owned liquor and cannabis stores did not have this internal notice, where we could have increased our stock levels in anticipation of strike action,” Waldron tells the oz. “So while private cannabis stores will run out of inventory quickly, the government cannabis stores will have the advantage.”

He says on the positive side, direct supply has now begun, which means private retailers can now place orders directly from small producers and processors.

“Although this may help offset the effects of the strike somewhat, we’re not holding our breath that the program will be fully functional on day one,” he said.

Jaclynn Pehota, executive director of The Retail Council of BC, tells the oz. that it will result in a halt to deliveries to all stores, both public and private.

“This is an excellent example of the precariousness of a legislated monopoly providing the sole supply chain for an essential service,” she says. “This strike action will significantly impact the legal cannabis supply chain. It is a fact that shortages of legal products will drive consumers back into the unregulated market.”

The retail council is calling on the BC government to expedite and expand the direct supply program in order to ensure private retailers maintain access to their supply chain.

“Failure to take decisive action will hurt small businesses and reverse the hard won progress legal cannabis has made in BC at a time when our sector is already coping with a turbulent market,” she says.

Picket lines are up at:

• Delta Distribution Centre (DDC) – 7003 72nd Street, Delta, B.C.

• Kamloops Distribution Centre (KDC) – 9881 Dallas Drive, Kamloops, B.C.

• Richmond Distribution Centre (RDC) – 3389 No 6 Rd, Richmond, B.C.

• Victoria Wholesale Customer Centre – 2291 Government Street, Victoria, B.C.

“Members at the Wholesale Customer Centre and the Customer Care Centre (Cannabis division) in Burnaby will be included in the targeted job action but there will not be a picket line at that location,” said the BCGEU.

The BCGEU issued strike notice on Aug. 12.

Updated: 6 a.m. Aug. 19 with news details; recasts

Updated: 11 a.m. Aug. 15 with comment from Cory Waldron and Jaclynn Pehota