Due to a union job action, British Columbia’s centralized cannabis distribution warehouse is suspending the receival or shipment of any orders for the time being.
The BC LDB’s cannabis distribution centre will not accept or ship product, assemble orders, or process invoices or purchase orders until further notice. The province’s cannabis Customer Care Centre will also be closed.
The shutdown is due to job actions today at four BC Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB) wholesale and distribution centres, scheduled to begin at 3:30 PM.
One of the four locations subject to those job actions is the Richmond warehouse which handles wholesale cannabis from producers to retailers. Workers at the LDB Wholesale Customer Service Centre and the Customer Care Centre – Cannabis Operations in Burnaby will also be joining the picket lines.
BC cannabis stores will not be part of this current phase of job actions.
The BCGEU announced the expected action on Friday, August 12, as part of the union’s calls for cost of living adjustments and wage protection from inflation. The union represents nearly 33,000 staff in BC’s Public Service Agency.
The strike is over the most recent collective agreement between the union and the Public Service Agency (PSA), which expired on April 1, 2022. Negotiations for a new collective agreement started on February 8 but stalled on April 6, and union members voted 95% in favour of job action on June 22. The parties met again in July, but talks quickly broke down.
The BC LDB has not replied to a request for comment as of press time.
Retailers and producers were informed Monday afternoon around 2pm of the cancellation of services. It’s unclear how long the cancellation will last. Several private retailers in BC that spoke with StratCann said they can handle a delay in deliveries for about a week before they would begin to see product shortages.
Vikram Sachdeva, the Founder and CEO of Seed and Stone, a cannabis retail chain with eight locations in BC, says they could handle a one-week delay in deliveries, but would likely face product shortages if any delays extended into a second week.
“Obviously we are trying to do our best and see how we can negate this, but it’s definitely concerning news,” says Sachdeva.
BC is also expected to launch its new direct delivery program to allow certain BC-grown cannabis products to be delivered directly from the producer to the retailer, bypassing the provincial distribution warehouse in Richmond.
The LDB has not responded to requests for information on how many producers or products are currently available under the direct delivery program, or how the program could be impacted by the current job action.
“When I first heard this, my first thought went to direct delivery,” continues Sachdeva. “At least one little positive out of this is any retailers who weren’t looking at (direct delivery), are now going to be giving it a look.”
Dayna Lange, the owner of Tricanna Industries Inc, a cannabis processor in Mission, BC says they were able to send off a shipment to the warehouse and have it received earlier today prior to the cut off. Although she says she doesn’t expect the warehouse shutdown to last long, the issue highlights the need for more options than simply the single provincial distributor.
“There’s never been a better time to get direct delivery activated because it will stop these sorts of things. This is exactly what happens when an industry is monopolized, and we don’t have an opportunity to go direct to retail.”
Tricanna has registered with the direct delivery program and expects to have products available for retailers through that system in the coming days and weeks, depending on how the strike impacts the province’s ability to manage the new program.
Robert Jones, the manager at Greenstar Cannabis Company in North Vancouver, says his store can handle a short delay, although some more popular products could begin to run low if delays last more than a week.
Jones was expecting his weekly delivery today.
“Thankfully I’ve got lots of product if I had to go a week without delivery. Vape products and probably pre-rolls I might sell out of more quickly, but I make sure I keep a pretty even inventory, so I don’t anticipate having many problems.”
BC retailers in parts of the province faced similar challenges last November after storms closed several roads into BC’s interior region, with some stores having some empty shelves for a few weeks before supply was restored.
Ontario’s cannabis distribution warehouse is currently facing similar challenges at providing orders for retailers, due to a cyber attack at a third party logistics partner on Friday, August 5.