Canada Post work stoppage: Medical marijuana producers switch to courier services

Faced with potential labour disruptions at Canada Post, licensed medical marijuana producers have turned to alternative methods for delivering patient prescriptions.

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Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) are still locked in increasingly frosty contract negotiations, and though no work stoppage has been announced, medical marijuana producers have already made the switch to competing courier services.

“To reduce the risk of medication not making its way to our patients, which is our number 1 priority, we had to make the switch over to Purolator,” said Robyn Rabinovitch with CannTrust, a licensed medical marijuana producer based in Vaughan, Ont. “This is medicine that our patients need and we need to do all that we can to make sure that it gets into their hands.”

READ MORE: What are the Canada Post negotiations about anyway?

Rabinovitch said it is working with customers who use P.O. boxes to find an alternative solution, as Purolator doesn’t ship to P.O. boxes. Other companies that have made the switch include Canopy Growth Corp., Canada’s largest publicly traded marijuana company.

Under Health Canada regulations licensed producers are only allowed to ship marijuana products to customers by mail, with many opting to use Canada Post.

WATCH: Small businesses fear higher costs as Canada Post work stoppage looms

Jordan Sinclair, a spokesperson for Canopy Growth Corp., said while the company has shifted their package handling to courier services to avoid any shipping problems in the event of a work stoppage, the company doesn’t have any plans to abandon Canada Post.

“We are using a variety of courier services to be able to cover everywhere in Canada,” Sinclair said, adding that Canopy Growth moved away from Canada Post roughly 10 days ago. “We were happy with the level of service [Canada Post] provided and our customers seem to be happy with it as well. At least in the short term there isn’t any reason for us to think about permanently switching.”

READ MORE: What you need to know if service stops

The Crown corporation and CUPW, representing about 50,000 workers, have been in contract negotiations since late last year to reach a new agreement. Employee pension plans and what the union calls a two-tier pay scale for urban and rural mail carriers are at the heart of negotiations.

Neither side has provided the required 72-hour notice for a lock-out or strike.

There are 33 licensed medical marijuana producers in the country, all of which use the mail to ship tens of thousands of packages a year.

One of the co-founders of Gatineau-based Hydropothecary, which offers pricier buds starting at $15 a gram, said it will be unaffected by any job action at Canada Post.

“All of our deliveries are free of charge and through Purolator,” said co-founder Adam Mirron. “It will have very little if any impact on us and our customers.”

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