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Former Whitehorse meat shop owner fined $17,250 for THC-tainted jerky

The judge noted, “It is only out of luck that more serious harm did not result out of this offence”
On July 14, the Yukon Territorial Court fined John Pauch over a 2020 incident that saw dozens of people report becoming intoxicated after eating THC-tainted jerky produced at his business. (Jim Elliot/Yukon News)

The Yukon Territorial Court fined the former owner of a Whitehorse meat shop and jerky-production operation $15,000 on July 14 for his connection to the production and packaging of THC-tainted jerky. THC is the primary psychoactive component of cannabis.

John Pauch, the former owner of Off the Hook Meatworks, will also be expected to pay a 15 per cent victim surcharge levy of $2,250, bringing his total fine to $17,250. Additionally, the presiding judge in the case, John Phelps, approved a forfeiture order request made by crown council.

Pauch was found guilty of an offence under the Cannabis Control and Regulation Act last month. The charge against him stemmed from an incident in late 2020, in which more than 30 people reported becoming intoxicated after eating THC-tainted jerky produced at his business. Among those affected were seven children and two infants.

Throughout the trial, Pauch and his lawyer argued that he was unaware that cannabis products were being produced at his shop and that Pauch’s son Joel and another shop employee were responsible for making the narcotic-infused meat products. However, conflicting testimony during his trial brought into question his professed lack of involvement.

In reading the sentence, Judge John Phelps noted that he believes Pauch did not intend to commit a crime but that “it is only out of luck that more serious harm did not result out of this offence.” However, he did note that he found aspects of Pauch’s testimony unlikely or defying logic.

He added, “This was a very serious offence with very serious potential consequences.”

READ MORE: Court hears case over cannabis-laced jerky sold by Whitehorse butcher shop

During the sentencing hearing, Crown counsel Kelly McGill requested that the judge levy a $30,000 to $35,000 fine against Pauch. McGill noted the facts surrounding this case are “entirely unique” and that the Crown could not find a relevant case in the Yukon.

Instead, while outlining her reasoning for the suggested penalty, McGill referenced several court cases outside of the territory, including an Alberta case involving horse meat that was sold as beef. She also noted that the sentence’s two primary goals should be deterrence and denunciation — two objectives Phelps highlighted and agreed with during the sentencing.

“Although Mr. Pauch did not create the hazard, he is still responsible as the owner-operator [of Off the Hook Meatworks],” McGill said, before noting that several people attended emergency rooms after consuming the tainted jerky, including four individuals at Whitehorse General Hospital.

In addition to actual harm, McGill spoke of the potential for harm, including the fact that at least one individual consumed the jerky while operating a motor vehicle. The potential impact on people’s employment was also highlighted, particularly for workers subjected to drug tests.

The court heard three victim impact statements from people who ingested the jerky unaware that it contained THC.

“I felt angry after the fact, as I fed some [of the tainted jerky] to my young kids and their friends,” read one of the victim impact statements. The same individual noted that they’d consumed the jerky while driving on a highway.

Pauch’s lawyer, Andre Roothman, called the Crown’s sentencing position “absurd” and requested a $5,000 fine. He challenged crown council references to the food safety code, stating that his client was not charged and convicted of food safety violations.

Roothman once again claimed that his client had no knowledge of the THC-laced jerky production going on at his business and that it was his client’s son and former employee who should be on trial. He further noted the lack of long-term effects of ingesting cannabis products.

The financial losses allegedly suffered by Pauch as a result of this ordeal were also mentioned by Roothman, as well as pending lawsuits against his client.

Prior to his sentence being read, Pauch took the opportunity to address the court, apologizing to those involved in the case.

Pauch has 12 months to pay the fine.

Contact Matthew Bossons at