Jordi Mikeli-Jones, owner of Triple J’s Music and Tattoos, poses for a photo in her shop in Whitehorse on Oct. 16. She and her partner Jeremy Jones plan to open the territory’s first private pot shop on April 17. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Private pot retailer plans April 17 opening

City bylaws pave way for private retail cannabis shops

Doors to the first private pot shop in Whitehorse could open to customers on April 17.

Triple J’s Canna Space owners Jordi Mikeli-Jones and Jeremy Jones are setting their sights on that date following Whitehorse City Council’s April 8 approval of the zoning bylaw allowing cannabis retailers to open up shop in the city.

“We’re very excited,” Mikeli-Jones told reporters following the unanimous vote by council.

It leaves the couple just waiting for their territorial license to be approved. Mikeli-Jones said they expect to pick it up on April 15.

The following day she and Jones will head down to the Yukon Liquor Corporation’s warehouse to get their first order of cannabis for the store. They have already provided the preliminary order to the Yukon government so it will be ready when they show up.

Provided all goes according to plan, the doors to Canna Space will open to customers a day later.

Mikeli-Jones and Jones have been working on plans for the store for four years with renovations underway at their 211 Wood Street location since January.

Prior to the territory issuing licenses for private cannabis retailers, municipalities were tasked with coming up with their own bylaws around it. Most municipalities are still in the process of adopting regulations.

In Whitehorse sales are limited to commercial areas in Marwell and Downtown.

Before passing the final reading, council agreed to an amendment adding much of Downtown South to areas where cannabis cannot be sold.

Coun. Laura Cabott brought forward the amendment with a map showing the restriction applying to properties behind Fourth Avenue. Commercial spaces facing Fourth Avenue could be used as cannabis retail space.

Cabott pointed to comments gathered through the public hearing process. Four submissions were made supporting the city’s proposed bylaw, and another argued against the bylaw, but the majority expressed specific concerns and suggested further restrictions.

This is one way to address the concerns that came up, Cabott said. While the downtown-south area has some mixed-use zoning, which allows for commercial development, Cabott said it’s primarily a residential area without a lot of traffic and not geared to tourists.

“It’s a relatively quiet neighbourhood,” she said.

Cabott also emphasized her desire to take a conservative, cautious approach to the retail sale of cannabis in the city, as it is so new not only to Whitehorse, but to the entire country.

It is much easier to ease up on restrictions in the future than it is to restrict what’s already been permitted, she said.

With a potential review of the city’s zoning bylaw coming up in 2020, that would be a good time to look at how the bylaw has worked in its first year and make changes if needed, Cabott said.

“There are opportunities in the future to expand,” she said.

Other council members agreed, with a unanimous vote in favour of the amendment and zoning bylaw.

Coun. Samson Hartland later proposed limiting the hours of operation for private cannabis shops to between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m. under the city’s business license bylaw.

Territorial legislation allows for private cannabis stores to be open for any 14-hour period from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. the following day. Municipalities can alter that for their individual communities.

Hartland argued for an earlier closing time in Whitehorse based on evidence around public health outcomes.

It did not take any arguing to convince council though.

As Coun. Jan Stick said, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. provides plenty of time for stores to be open.

There was no argument from Triple J’s.

As Mekili-Jones and Jones outlined in their license application, they will be closed at 8 p.m. most nights. The exception will be Friday when the store will stay open until 9 p.m. and Sunday when it will close at 5 p.m. It will open at 10 a.m. every day except Sunday when it will open an hour later.

The couple has stated they do not want to be open late for a variety of reasons including security, that they live out of town and they have a young daughter.

As they ready for the opening, the couple acknowledged there have been a couple of “curve balls” in shoring up their supply, given the nationwide shortage of weed.

Required to order their supply through the Yukon Liquor Corp., Mekili-Jones said she knows warehouse staff with the liquor corporation are doing a lot to address the supply issue and Triple J’s Canna Space looks forward to working with the Yukon government on it in the future.

“We’ll have enough to open,” she said.

With Triple J’s Canna Space set to open this month, another retailer may not be far behind.

The Yukon Liquor Corp. has posted an application submitted by Ninetails Cannabis Inc. to open a stand-alone store at 204 Main Street, currently home to Sagebrush Shoes which is closing down.

A deadline of May 6 by 4:30 p.m. has been set for anyone to file objections to Ninetails’ application.

It would be open from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 10 a.m. until 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

Community Services Minister John Streicker has confirmed that a third application for a retail cannabis store outside of the city has also been received.

It is only after an application is in the public notification period that information on it is released on the liquor corporation’s website.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

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