More than 100 Victoria Trees Cannabis employees have lost their jobs in the wake of the province’s crackdown on the unlicensed dispensary.
On Wednesday members of the Public Safety and Solicitor General’s Community Safety Unit’s Community Safety Unit shut down the business’s Alpha Street location and proceeded to close the store on Yates Street the next day. As a result, the company has suspended operations at the remainder of the Victoria locations.
“For a lot of people, it’s kind of very surreal. I don’t think it’s really sunk in,” says Avery Podgorenko, a night supervisor at the Trees Cannabis location on Cook Street. “A lot of us knew this was a possibility but it’s now become very real.”
Podgorenko said it’s still unclear how severances and other end of employment agreements will pan out but he said a member of the company’s human resources team had already been working with some employees in preparation for a planned closure in September, which was intended to suspend business until the company had obtained its license.
Podgorenko has a second job, but says a vast majority of Trees employees worked full-time positions.
“There are a lot of people that that is their full-time and only source of income,” he said. “It’s definitely stressful.”
In a statement released Wednesday, CEO Alex Robb said a two-week notice of termination had been given to employees after the first closure. That changed Thursday when it became clear that the province’s Alpha Street shut down wasn’t just a warning.
“Our main concern right now is for our staff. At this time, we cannot put our team at risk of fines from the CSU,” Robb stated Wednesday.
Podgorenko said the company has been transparent with staff about the need to search out other employment.
“It’s difficult with the lack of timelines and solid information, but one thing that has been made abundantly clear is that staff are more than welcome to come back when licensing is actually issued,” he said. “We don’t know when that’s going to happen, it could be two week, it could be two months, it could be 14 months and so Victoria obviously is not a cheap city to live in and I do appreciate that transparency of, ‘yes, you should go look for other sources of income and other employment while we wait for the licensing.’”