HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Union Vows To Have Staff Trained And Ready For Pot Store
Pubdate: Mon, 11 Sep 2017
Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Dan Healing
Page: A3


The head of the union tapped to represent workers in Ontario cannabis
stores says his members will be well-trained and ready to go by next
July, the target date for federal legalization of recreational pot.

"Oh, we'll be ready for it, don't worry about that," said Warren
"Smokey" Thomas, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees
Union, which represents staff of the provincially owned Liquor Control
Board of Ontario.

On Friday, Premier Kathleen Wynne said Ontario will allow the sale of
recreational marijuana only from government-run standalone outlets -
starting next summer with 40 shops and growing to about 150 by 2020 -
as well as a government website. The LCBO will operate the stores and
website using OPSEU members.

While conceding the timeline is "ambitious," Thomas said there are
many experts available from the medical marijuana industry to train
his members in distribution, sales and product quality control.

He said he expects experienced workers from soon-to-be-outlawed
private cannabis operations in Ontario will likely apply for those
jobs so they can receive higher union wages.

But the president of the Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis
Dispensaries said he's not so sure the government staff can be trained
in time, adding he's disappointed the government is "missing an
opportunity" by cutting out existing operations and their experienced

Jeremy Jacob said dispensaries require front-line workers to have a
much more nuanced knowledge of their products than a typical LCBO
outlet. "What dispensary technicians do is determine the experience
level, the tolerance someone has, and recommend appropriate products
to ensure they have a good experience," he said.

"That level of care and attention isn't present in liquor stores and
it's not something where you can flip a switch and suddenly ensure
people are getting the advice they need."

Meanwhile, Greg Engel, CEO of OrganiGram, a licensed producer of
medicinal cannabis, said the government's target of training
front-line staff by next July is "achievable and reasonable" and also
vitally important.

"Having a knowledgeable staff that is able to convey what the expected
effect is for individuals who are purchasing product and the duration
of the effect and what they should experience and what's right for
them based on what they're looking for, that's critical," he said.

Thomas said the 40 stores will likely require about 200 new union
members and that could eventually grow to 1,000 or more.

- - With files from Armina Ligaya.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt