Mayor Dan Curtis, from left, Allan Lucier, assistant deputy minister of justice, Matt King, president of the Yukon Liquor Corporation (YLC), and John Streicker, the minister responsible for the YLC, talk to media in Whitehorse on Jan. 14, about the transition from selling pot at government-operated establishments to privately owned. (Julien Gignac/Yukon News)

YG releases regulations for private pot sales

One model could permit pre-existing businesses to sell cannabis in a designated space

Imagine walking into the grocery store in Whitehorse to find a section where pot is sold, perhaps near the bakery.

Depending on what the city has to say, this could be a reality in the near future, as it falls under one of two license regulations for private retailers put together by the Yukon government.

The news came out during a technical briefing about the transition from selling cannabis at the government-operated pot shop — forecast to close later this year — to the private market.

“If I owned a general store,” said Matt King, president of the Yukon Liquor Corporation (YLC), “and I sold general goods, maybe groceries, I could make an application for the store-within-a-store model, as long as I built, essentially, a separate space to sell cannabis from within that store.”

John Streicker, the minister responsible for the YLC, who was also present at the briefing, said the idea is to make it easier for smaller communities that may have limited infrastructure to facilitate these sales.

“It isn’t always possible for them to create another whole business or storefront,” he said. “I think we contemplated trying to consider the differences across the territory and work with them.”

The other license class involves a new, standalone storefront that exclusively sells cannabis and cannabis accessories.

Since pot was legalized across the country three months ago the Yukon government has made over $1.1 million in sales, Streicker noted.

“It’s been a very successful start to the legalization of cannabis and today we’re taking the next step,” he said.

Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis said the city’s bylaws are to be hammered out starting next month. A public input period will follow.

“I believe that there is definitely desire to have public retail in the downtown and I think that’s one of the things council will be considering for the citizens of Whitehorse …” he said.

Alcohol and tobacco sales are prohibited under both licenses, unless amended by municipal bylaw or ministerial order.

No consumption of cannabis is allowed in retail areas. This is subject to change as federal rules could shift concerning edibles.

There are setbacks of 150 metres from primary and secondary schools. This, too, could be subject to changes by municipalities or ministerial order.

In the spring, interested parties will be able to apply for licenses issued by an arms-length regulatory board.

That board, to be made up of five people with a range of experiences, will be established “over the next several weeks,” Streicker said.

To apply for a license, you must be at least 19-years-old and a Canadian resident. You also cannot be an employee of the YLC, or sit on its regulatory board. Further, Yukoners would undergo criminal background checks.

“Persons who have been convicted of certain criminal acts, including acts associated with organized crime, illegal drug trade or with convictions related to drug trafficking, fraud or violent crime are ineligible for a license,” says an overview of the regulations.

The duration of licenses can last up to three years. A startup fee is $2,050; for a renewal it’s $1,550; and an annual license costs $2,150.

So far, “a number of different businesses” have expressed interest in applying for licenses, King said, in Whitehorse and other communities.

“Those are just conversations at this point. Without applications in hand, it’s hard to speculate,” he added, when asked for specific types of businesses.

The government-operated pot shop, located in Marwell at 120-B Industrial Rd., will close once private retailers are set up, Streicker said, noting that, when that happens, the e-commerce site will still be available.

There will be no layoffs at the store, he added, because everyone who works there right now is on year-long contracts.

“We’re trying to move as quickly as we can to get to private retail without rushing it,” Streicker said. “We don’t have a date, we have a goal.”

Contact Julien Gignac at julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

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