The Yukon Territorial Court found the former owner of a Whitehorse meat shop guilty of an offence under the Cannabis Control and Regulation Act after jerky made and packaged at the shop was found to contain cannabis. More than 30 people reported intoxication after eating jerky bearing the label of Off the Hook Meatworks, but there was no indication it contained cannabis in late 2020.
All six random samples taken from roughly 300 bags of Off the Hook jerky seized from Yukon businesses tested positive for cannabis. Fourteen of 20 samples from bags taken from individuals also tested positive.
Off the Hook’s owner, John Pauch, was charged with the regulatory offence for unlicensed cannabis sales. Pauch answered the charge in a March 2023 trial where he and his lawyer Andre Roothman argued that the tainted jerky had been produced by employees at the shop without his knowledge and that his due diligence to prevent this was done.
During trial the court heard that Pauch’s son Joel had been conducting experiments with cannabis-laced jerky at home. Seeking to test his method in larger batches to possibly produce and sell it legally, he paid an employee who made jerky at the shop overnight to make a batch.
Pauch denied knowledge of this but the court heard conflicting evidence regarding his involvement with the overall plan to launch a cannabis jerky business. He and other witnesses were thoroughly questioned about the procedures in place for jerky-making, as well as sanitation and quality control in use at the meat shop at the time the tainted jerky was made.
Judge John Phelps found aspects of Pauch’s testimony implausible or defying common sense. These included his assertion that he had no idea how the jerky became contaminated with cannabis and that he didn’t speak with his son or the employee who made jerky on the overnight shift when the contamination was brought to his attention.
“He was trying to start a business making cannabis jerky and a discussion with his son and the primary jerky maker would be expected,” Phelps writes in his decision issued June 20.
Phelps also found Pauch’s assertion that he was willing to invest in the cannabis jerky business without any knowledge of whether such a product could be made defied common sense.
“I find that Mr. Pauch lacked credibility on the issues relating to his knowledge about the cannabis jerky recipe and the intention to make a test sample at Off the Hook,” Phelps writes.
Phelps also found that the fact that procedures at the shop meant to avoid cross-contamination did not meet the industry standard, and so did not assist the due diligence defence Pauch posed.
Pauch was found guilty of the cannabis control offence he was charged with, having failed to prove he met the standards of due diligence.
A date for sentencing has not yet been set.
Contact Jim Elliot at email@example.com