Pubdate: Sat, 20 May 2017
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2017 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Sunny Freeman
Page: FP6


TORONTO - Canada's largest private-sector union says it isn't bothered
that its first-ever group of medical marijuana members works at an
illegal pot dispensary.

Unifor spokeswoman Katha Fortier said it is in the process of
negotiating a contract for all 40 employees at one of Toronto's Canna
Clinic marijuana dispensaries, which sells dried cannabis as well as
oils and edibles, but does not have a Health Canada licence to do so.

Licensed producers are currently the only legal sellers of marijuana
in Canada and their operations are strictly regulated. They can sign
up patients only with a medical authorization from a doctor and can
deliver product only through a mail order system.

Many dispensaries claim they are for medical marijuana and charge
customers a fee to get an authorization from their health-care
professionals before selling them marijuana over the counter without a

"As a union, our legal relationship is between the workers and their
employer," said Fortier, assistant to Unifor's president.

"Ultimately this is a group of workers, they receive pay from their
employer, they pay normal deductions that everybody else pays when
they go to work and the labour board, where the application goes to
certify, says (the dispensary is) an employer." Canna Clinic's website
claims it is "Canada's leading provider of medical cannabis products
and accessories." It also lists a menu of products currently on hand
at its locations in Toronto and Vancouver and offers daily deals such
as 2 Toonie Tuesday's "$4 pre-rolled joint."

Unifor president Jerry Dias said in a press release that every worker
has a right to unionize regardless of the legal status of the industry
in which they work. The union is actively trying to seek out new
workplaces to join amid a dramatic decline in unionization rates.

Fortier said she is unaware of whether local organizers knew of the
clinic's questionable legal standing, adding that it's not the union's
job to investigate the legal status of an employer.

"Obviously the marijuana debate is raging in the country and I think
we all know where it's heading, but this is an industry that's going
to be growing."

Labour lawyer Peter Straszynski said there is nothing technically
"unlawful about the union organizing the company's employees." "The
issue of the legality of the enterprise is between the authorities and
the company (and maybe its owners or principals," he said.

The industry is expected to rapidly expand with the advent of
legalization for recreational use expected in July 2018. However, it's
unclear whether dispensaries will be able to play a role in retail
distribution in a system that is expected to remain tightly regulated.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt