The almost four-week-old Dominion strike is turning into a major buzzkill for cannabis enthusiasts in central Newfoundland, who have been left with no retail outlets for miles.
Dominion was granted the only two initial retail licenses for cannabis sales in the central part of the province, and the store’s contract dispute with Unifor Local 597 has led to the closure of both establishments — as well as eight others across the province.
“It’s just a big bummer all around, really,” said Jennifer Warren, a resident of Gambo. “You gotta order stuff online — and with COVID, too, the mail thing slows everything down.”
Warren says cannabis is part of her daily routine with her boyfriend, but ordering by mail is just not the same.
“It gets imprisoned in Dieppe for a couple days, and then you see it’s tracked but it’s in St. John’s on Friday and you don’t get your stuff until Monday, it kind of ruins your weekend. You can’t just drive to Gander to pick up a couple of grams of weed for your Friday night.”
Warren’s new closest outlet is in Clarenville, a two-hour round trip from her home in Gambo. The further into central Newfoundland you go, the further away the product becomes.
In Lewisporte, customers have two roughly equivalent options: A drive to Clarenville, or to Conne River, on the island’s south coast. Each is about two hours away.
Cannabis enthusiast Jonathan Norris says most people aren’t going to make that trip — they’re going to find alternatives.
“What that does is it forces people into the grey market where they might not want to be,” he said.
“All I hear from my friends that are living in central is, ‘Well, I used to go down to Dominion, it was close … I didn’t have to deal with calling a guy,'” he said. “All this stuff you’ve ever seen in the movies, or whatever it is, people don’t want to do that.”
Norris hosts a Facebook livestream most days that he calls Cannabis Corner. He broadcasts to his Facebook group of 4,000 people to consume and chat about cannabis.
‘It’s what they need, you know?’
He says many people in his audience, like him, consume the drug for medicinal purposes.
Many people, he said, decided to stop seeking prescriptions when the drug became legal in 2018. That’s adding another level of sting to the Dominion closures.
“To some, it seems petty, but to some it’s their medicinal relief, it’s what they need, you know?” he said.
According to presentations in 2018, the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation was anticipating awarding retail licenses in the Lewisporte postal code area, and in the Springdale postal code area. However, no stores ever opened in those regions.