Pot shops run out of weed in B.C. as strike hits supply chains

More than a week after the BCGEU set up picket lines at distribution centres, private cannabis stores in B.C. say they will be out of stock in several days. Monika Gul reports it has some shops considering closures, layoffs, and shorter business hours.

More than a week after the BC General Employees Union (BCGEU) set up picket lines at provincial distribution centres, some private cannabis stores say they will be out of stock in several days.

Some shops are even having to consider closures, staffing layoffs, and shorter business hours.

“Obviously our most popular items are already sold out,” Ali Wasuk, WestCanna cannabis store co-founder told CityNews.

“We shouldn’t be the ones affected by this,” he said, adding that his business, which has two locations across Vancouver, currently has enough supply to last 10 to 14 days.

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“My biggest concern is not so much for the recreational market, it’s a lot more for people who use it maybe medically and people who are finally getting rid of the black market,” he explained.

The BC General Employees Union, which represents 33,000 workers, went on strike on August 15. On Tuesday, the union said it accepted the government’s invitation to resume contract negotiations.

Jeremy Jacob, owner and founder of Village Bloomery Cannabis Shop, says he’s going to have to make some hard choices if the strike continues.

“Being unsupplied for a month – it’s an existential crisis for small businesses in this space,” he said.

Beginning to run out of key items, his business is seeing some panic buying from customers, so they have implemented limits to how much customers can purchase.

“We’re thinking within 7 to 10 days, we’re gonna have to make some hard choices about, you know, layoffs and hours of operation. It’s threatening our whole business.”

Jaclynn Pehota, executive director of Retail Cannabis Council of British Columbia told CityNews the situation needs urgent attention.

“We’re looking at 5,000 jobs right now across British Columbia, hanging in the balance because my retailers have no reasonable access to a legal supply chain,” she explained.

Pehota says unlike liquor stores and restaurants and bars, which can buy directly from breweries and distilleries, cannabis retail stores have to buy through the province’s distribution branch.

“In hospitality and liquor there will be shortages, it will be inconvenient, it will have negative impacts on people, small business. In my sector, those businesses will close, and they will not reopen their doors,” she said.

Jacob described the supply chain as being “beholden to a monopoly distributor.”

“It’s frustration, it’s helplessness, and it’s a real worry. I mean, cannabis businesses are struggling. Cannabis retailers, many of them are just hanging on,” he said.

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