Strike at distribution centers could lead to shortages at BC pottery

Workers at BC’s only wholesaler and distributor of regulated cannabis products went on strike this week, leaving the province’s legal pot shops scrambling to make sure they have enough product to keep their open doors. Workers from the British Columbia General Employees Union (BCGEU), which represents approximately 33,000 service industry employees, set up picket lines at four distribution centers operated by the BC Liquor Distribution Branch ( BCLDB) on Monday in an effort to get higher salaries from their employer.

On Wednesday, the BCLDB announced that due to labor action, cannabis distribution centers will be temporarily unable to accept or fulfill orders, process invoices or ship goods to authorized retailers in the province. .

“We sincerely apologize for this disruption and for the impact on your business,” the retailer wrote in a statement to stores posted on its website.

Provincial authorities have been working on a plan to allow cannabis retailers to accept deliveries directly from licensed producers. But until the plan takes effect, the BCLBD is the sole wholesaler and distributor of cannabis dispensaries in the province.

“The BC Liquor Distribution Branch recognizes that the actions currently being taken by the BC General Employee’s Union may be of concern to wholesale and retail customers,” the distributor said in a statement quoted by CBC, adding that the BC Cannabis Store website is also unable to fill or deliver customer orders.

“We do not know the extent of any future actions and therefore cannot speculate on inventory levels held by wholesale customers or customer demand and buying behavior in this dynamic environment,” added the distributer.

Strike could lead to shortages and store closures

Cannabis retailers in British Columbia have to speculate on what effect the fulfillment center strike will have on their businesses. Omar Khan, senior vice president of public and corporate affairs at High Tide, said the company’s Canna Cabana chain of stores would face imminent shortages if the strike was not ended soon, adding that it could have long-term implications for the regulated cannabis industry. .

“At this time, we are managing the situation by reallocating inventory between our BC stores, but if the pressure measure is not resolved within the next 10 days, we may face inventory issues” , Khan said. “We urge the BCLDB and BCGEU to resolve their dispute as soon as possible, as the lack of inventory at licensed cannabis stores risks drawing consumers back into the hands of the illicit market, which will endanger public health and divert much-needed revenue from state coffers. »

Other retailers fear the strike will force them to close their stores until the labor dispute is resolved.

“If it’s longer than two weeks, we’re probably considering closing the store because there’s nothing to sell,” said Jacob Michalow, assistant general manager of Marigolds Cannabis in Vancouver.

Vikram Sachdeva said his chain of stores Seed and Stone currently has an adequate supply of products, but said the situation could change in the event of a prolonged strike.

“Hopefully we can survive for a week or a bit longer, but beyond that point it’s going to be very difficult,” Sachdeva said, adding that he wanted retailers to be informed further in advance. advance of trade union action.

“It was just a bit of a shock, and…now the concern is how long before they start delivering to us so we don’t start running out of product?” he said.

Sachdeva said he fears he may have to turn away clients if he runs out of product and fears medical marijuana patients will have difficulty accessing their medication. He also expressed concern that customers disappointed by the lack of regulated cannabis are turning to the illicit market instead.

Jaclyn Pehota, executive director of the Canadian Cannabis Retailers Association, noted that bars and restaurants are better able to weather the strike because they can also purchase products from private wineries and craft breweries. they are unable to receive goods from fulfillment centers. .

“It’s something we’re calling on the government to explore,” Pehota said. “We would like the same supply chain diversity for cannabis retail.”

David Hurford, secretary of the BC Farmers Craft Co-op, agrees, saying many consumers in the province are able to find illicit sources of cannabis if licensed dispensaries run out of supplies.

“We fully respect the union’s right to take this action, but it is up to the government to put a contingency plan in place,” Hurford said.

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