As a B.C. government workers’ strike ends, the legal cannabis market is no longer going up in smoke. Or is it? Sixteen days later, store shelves are empty while some stores have shut down.
The great B.C. cannabis shortage of 2022 was brought to you by the B.C. General Employees’ Union (BCGEU), a group of provincial workers representing B.C.’s government-run supply chain.
According to the Retail Cannabis Council of B.C. (RCCBC), fifty stores closed their doors, and nearly 500 private-sector jobs were at risk.
While the strike was on, Jaclynn Pehota, executive director of RCCBC, told the National Post, “We’re going to be looking at between 50 and 70 per cent of private retailers closing their doors in B.C. due to product shortages.”
Despite the strike ending, industry experts don’t expect the market to return to pre-strike inventory levels anytime soon.
B.C. Cannabis Strike Ends
The B.C. cannabis strike began on August 15 and ended the night of August 30.
“The union’s overtime ban has ended – effective immediately – and preparations are underway to stand down picket lines at B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch locations,” the union said in a news release.
Picketing in front of the liquor and cannabis distribution centres, the union demanded inflation-adjusted wages.
It’s a topic we’ve covered here before. But picketing against inflation shouldn’t mean depriving cannabis consumers and risking private-sector jobs.
Of course, a proper demonstration against inflation and for living wages would see union members picketing outside the Bank of Canada.
Even at the modest “2% inflation targeting,” the money loses half its value in only three decades.
As the B.C. cannabis strike ends, striking members may have gotten what they wanted. But they also accomplished two counterproductive goals to the union’s aims.
One, people realized the fragility of a cannabis supply chain that relies on a single monopoly distributor – run by the government, no less.
Two, it sent consumers back to the legacy market, empowering B.C. Bud.
Time to End the Provincial Monopoly?
In Ontario, cannabis shortages weren’t the result of a strike but a cyberattack. These shortages prompted the Ontario Chamber of Commerce to denounce the government monopoly publicly and promote a more market-based solution.
“From the start, we’ve suggested that we need to have retailers and producers to be able to have a direct relationship with one another,” said Daniel Safayeni, Ontario Chamber of Commerce vice-president of policy and chair of the Ontario Cannabis Policy Council (OCPC.)
“We see with the current delivery stoppage issue and the cyber hack vulnerability why it’s important to not hedge the province’s bets on one single government-run entity.”
B.C. Bud Winning Even As Cannabis Strike Ends
As the B.C. cannabis strike ends, the only clear winner is B.C. Bud.
Judging the size of the B.C. Bud market has always been tricky. Some estimate it accounts for 30 percent of the B.C. cannabis market, while others say it’s higher.
Of course, one indirect way of determining the size is to look at the legal market’s popularity. Despite B.C.’s affinity for cannabis, they rank 4th in recreational cannabis sales, behind Ontario, Alberta and Quebec.
Since this statistic measures legal sales, one can deduce that many B.C. consumers still purchase from the legacy market.
Provincial authorities and legal retailers recognize that cannabis legalization has been an uphill battle in B.C.
Many consumers are happy with their farmers, cannabis genetics, and low-carbon footprint.
Compared to the pharmaceutical-grade irradiated cannabis that must be excessively packaged into plastic containers and sent all over the province (or the country) before finding its way into a legal retail outlet.
But let’s not forget what happened here.
Government workers complained about inflation without understanding the root cause. Since they blamed their employer, the taxpayer, they ended up holding B.C’s legal cannabis industry hostage.
This then sent consumers back to the BC Bud market, where cannabis sales rightfully belong.
Dismantling the cannabis monopoly wholesaler is the only logical conclusion here. Hopefully, this strike was a wake-up call to BC’s cannabis entrepreneurs and consumers.
*Note, an earlier draft of this article was published this morning in error. We apologize for any inconvenience or misunderstanding this may have caused.