Canada Post strike could ben­e­fit pot black mar­ket

The Peterborough Examiner - - Canada & World - TERRY PEDWELL

OTTAWA — Canada’s largest li­censed pro­ducer of med­i­cal mar­i­juana says a work stop­page at Canada Post could leave many of its cus­tomers with­out their med­i­ca­tions, re­sult­ing in some look­ing for un­reg­u­lated, black mar­ket sources of cannabis to fill the void.

“What ends up hap­pen­ing is that peo­ple ei­ther go with­out their medicine or they find an al­ter­na­tive source,” said Jor­dan Sin­clair, vice pres­i­dent of com­mu­ni­ca­tions at Canopy Growth Corp.

“Those are the choices peo­ple have. There is no other le­gal means of get­ting cannabis in Canada, aside from through the mail.”

The com­pany has writ­ten to Canada Post and fed­eral Health Min­is­ter Ginette Petit­pas Tay­lor as it pre­pares con­tin­gency plans for a pos­si­ble strike or lock­out at the Crown agency.

“The mes­sage that we have to Canada Post and to the health min­is­ter is that this is an es­sen­tial ser­vice,” said Sin­clair.

“It is es­sen­tial for peo­ple to get their medicine and if the only route is through the mail, then that has to be taken into con­sid­er­a­tion.”

Postal work­ers will be in a le­gal strike po­si­tion on Sept. 26 af­ter ur­ban and ru­ral car­ri­ers voted over­whelm­ingly to au­tho­rize a strike if con­tract talks with the agency fail.

Canada Post could also lock out its em­ploy­ees on that date.

A Canada Post spokesper­son said Thurs­day that talks with the Cana­dian Union of Postal Work­ers aimed at reach­ing con­tract set­tle­ments with two sets of its mem­bers are con­tin­u­ing with the help of a me­di­a­tor.

Med­i­cal mar­i­juana pro­duc­ers faced a sim­i­lar cir­cum­stance in 2016 when postal work­ers last threat­ened to walk off the job.

At that time, Canopy Growth sub­sidiary Tweed, based in Smiths Falls, Ont., proac­tively switched courier ser­vices in ad­vance of a po­ten­tial postal strike that never ma­te­ri­al­ized.

Sin­clair said cir­cum­stances have changed dra­mat­i­cally over the past two years pre­sent­ing more of a chal­lenge.

“We have way more cus­tomers, so the con­tin­gency plan has to in­clude a lot more ca­pac­ity,” he said.

In 2016, the com­pany served ap­prox­i­mately 20,000 reg­is­tered clients.

“We’ve got 85,000 peo­ple we have to serve, and the en­tire mar­ket has grown along with that,” Sin­clair said. “Canada Post is the lion’s share of the mail that goes around in this coun­try, so when there’s a threat of a strike, it’s re­ally con­cern­ing for us and our cus­tomers.”

One ad­van­tage it has now that the com­pany didn’t have in 2016 is a con­trac­tual re­la­tion­ship with an­other ser­vice provider, Puro­la­tor. But, said Sin­clair, “there’s only so much sec­ondary ca­pac­ity.”

Un­der Health Canada’s med­i­cal mar­i­juana reg­u­la­tions, pa­tients can only buy the med­i­ca­tion from li­censed pro­duc­ers through the mail or by courier com­pa­nies that pro­vide track­ing and a sig­na­ture on de­liv­ery.

COLE BURSTON BLOOMBERG

Em­ploy­ees in­spect cannabis plants at a fa­cil­ity in Pel­ham. A Canada Post strike could leave med­i­cal mar­i­juana users with­out their med­i­ca­tion.

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