Dominion strike halts cannabis sales in Newfoundland

Published Sep 29, 2020 09:00 a.m. ET
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The Loblaw-owned Dominion grocery store's ongoing strike has resulted in 40% of Newfoundland cannabis pot shops closing. This action is seen as the first-ever strike to affect a significant chain of regulated pot shops in Canada. Ten C-Shops located in Dominion grocery stores have been forced to close their doors during the strike by Dominion grocery store workers in Newfoundland. All of the ten stores are located within the Dominion grocery stores.

Newfoundland has 26 mortar and brick stores that serve more than 500,000 people. Does this mean that online sales are increasing?

Dominion is owned by Loblaws Companies, which is Canadas largest grocery chain. Loblaws also holds a Canadian pharmacy chain that has a medical cannabis operation, Shoppers Drug Mart. According to Dominion, each C-Shop employs about five Dominion staffers. Closures began Sunday, Aug 23, for the pot shops. Liquor stores that are attached to the grocery stores are also affected by the strike.

Dominion is represented by Unifor Local 597, and President Carolyn Wrice tells us that more than 1400 of the company's workers are on strike. The C-Shop cannabis store employees are members of the same collective agreement that all other Dominion's Newfoundland workers have. According to press releases, the members have been without a contract since October 2019.

Newfoundland cannabis sales

The sales for cannabis in Newfoundland were estimated to be worth 3.3 million Canadian Dollars in June, but the almost four-week-old strike has posed a problem for Newfoundland cannabis users. Cannabis consumers in central Newfoundland have been left with no retail pot shops for miles. Residents are instead left to order online cannabis, which has increased by 56 percent, or to turn to illicit markets.

COVID-19 has added to delays consumers are experiencing in receiving on-line cannabis. The delivery route is slow, and for those looking to enjoy Newfoundland cannabis, they must be diligent in ordering the herb days ahead of when they want it. There is no room for spontaneity as was available before the Dominion strike. Those who do choose to purchase Newfoundland cannabis from a brick and mortar store will have a two-hour trip ahead of them.

The Dominion strike has shown weaknesses in the provincial plan for pot shops. Newfoundland reported in the first year of legalization 36 million in sales of legal marijuana.  According to Norris, who is the host of a Facebook live stream that he calls Cannabis Corner, the 4000 in his group who consume cannabis for medicinal purposes like himself are represented in these numbers.

He says that many in his group stopped seeking prescriptions for cannabis when it became legal in 2018, as there was no longer a need to have a license for legal protection, and that the Dominion strike has caused issues for many in his group who are now unable to access their medicine from a nearby or convenient location.

Final words

The grocery store Dominion was granted the only two initial retail licenses to sell marijuana in the eastern Newfoundland area, and that is why the strike has affected many. One can only hope that the days of minimal access for local consumers are short, but they will continue for as long as the Dominion grocery store locations remain closed.

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