Yukoners now know where they will need to go to pick up their cannabis products once legalization takes effect later this year.
The territorial government announced Wednesday that a retail store at 120B Industrial Rd. in Whitehorse will house the products, which could include oils, pre-rolled cannabis and seeds, among other things.
Part of what makes it a good location, a spokesperson for the Yukon Liquor Corp. (YLC) and a press release on the announcement noted, is that the building itself is
already on lease to the government.
Some of the other space is currently being used as a storage facility for the Department of Highways and Public Works.
After concern that the site should be publicly accessible for those travelling from outside of Whitehorse, John Streicker, the minister responsible for the YLC, which
selected the location, told the Star today officials chose the site from the options available.
“There’s four bus routes that stop right in front of it, the other two are less than a block away,” Streicker said, adding, “so it’s pretty accessible.”
Noting that the location is close to the YLC’s storage warehouse and is already on lease, he continued that it’s a financially feasible option.
“We were looking for something that would be accessible for folks without making a big investment, so it all kind of came together for us.”
He estimated that the cost of improving the site and making it look more like a retail space could be about $250,000.
Matching the federal government’s schedule was also crucial, Streicker continued.
“We wanted someplace that was going to be able to meet the timelines of preparing for the summer.”
While the retail store is the first and only location to be announced, the corporation already has two listed suppliers: Tilray/High Park and Canopy Growth/Tweed.
A YLC webpage lists that the organization hopes to have a total of five to six suppliers. It wants to choose those that are closest to the territory to keep shipping costs
Tilray, headquartered in Nanaimo, B.C., has formed partnerships with Quebec and Manitoba for adult-use products including oils.
Canopy is located in Smiths Falls, Ont., and serves cities in Germany and Denmark.
Most recently, Canopy announced in December 2017 that it would be supplying to Newfoundland and Labrador.
The corporation and the release did note that the store is to be temporary, though, until the ownership switches hands to private retailers.
“Development of the licensing and regulatory framework to allow for private retail sales is now underway,” the release said, quoting the minister.
This comes after criticism from the official Opposition party, which is again questioning the government’s approach and involvement in the industry to begin with.
“We continue to believe this is an unnecessary cost,” the Yukon Party’s Brad Cathers told the Star today.
“Simply put, the entrance of government into the retail of cannabis is completely unnecessary,” he said.
There are small businesses that are ready to apply for licences as soon as they are permitted by the government to do so, Cathers noted.
“The basic structure is already there under the liquor licences application, so the government doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel – or design a new wheel – to allow for
Yukon companies to apply,” he pointed out.
Streicker said the government is in talks with these parties, and is “happy to step aside” to make space for private retailers – but could not provide a timeline as to
when this could be expected.
There has already been interest from and dialogue between private retailers and the government, Streicker confirmed.
According to the YLC’s website, the only legal online retailer will be the corporation’s online store, meaning anything ordered from other sites by Yukoners is prohibited.
That’s in addition to this retail store, meaning Yukoners can purchase cannabis in person or online but must go through the YLC in both scenarios.
The 1,500-square-foot site is set to host products starting at about $8 per gram or higher.
The release also notes that once locally grown products become available, the YLC plans include these in its inventory.
But with it eventually turning over to private retailers, it’s not certain how long the corporation will be the one calling the shots.
During the spring sitting of the legislative assembly, Cathers was especially critical of the storefront model. He said it could result in a growing black market, particularly in rural areas of the territory.
“The illusion that the existing black market is going to be preceded by an online mail delivery option is naive at best,” the Lake Laberge MLA noted, continuing that this
could be combated by efforts to keep taxes on products low.
For his part, though, Streicker said he is hopeful that the store will be a success.
“If there’s more interest, that’s good news because we’re displacing the illegal market,” he said.
An April 13 release estimated that the demand in the territory to be about 800 to 1,000 kilograms per year.
“Our job is to get prepared and that’s what we’re doing now,” he said.
The government’s goal is to have stores up and running once Ottawa gives the green light on legalization.
Until then, though, the minister said “it’s good news that we have the developments of stores underway.”
While he couldn’t provide a specific date, he said late summer might be possible. The Yukon government is hoping to be ready by early September.
In terms of inventory, Tilray/High Park have agreed to provide about 250 kilograms of product in the first year afer it becomes legalized.
The act governing legalization in the territory, called the Cannabis Control and Regulation Act, passed during this spring’s sitting, but the minister added the logistical details of store hours and security measures were still being finalized.
The release also noted that there are currently no licensed producers in the territory, which is issued by Health Canada.