The Yukon government has cancelled its tender to buy or lease a location for a government-run cannabis store, but the minister responsible for the new cannabis distribution corporation, John Streicker, insists that a retail space will still be ready intime for federal legalization. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Yukon cancels tender for government-run cannabis store over size and price

Streicker promises there will still be a retail location up and running in time for legalization

The Yukon government has cancelled its tender to buy or lease a location for a government-run cannabis store.

But the minister responsible for the new cannabis distribution corporation insists that a retail space will still be ready in time for federal legalization.

Minister John Streicker told the legislative assembly March 29 the one location that submitted a proposal to be the Yukon’s retail and warehouse space was too big and too pricy.

The only submission to a request for proposals that closed in late February was for the government to buy a building for $3.4 million.

“It was, unfortunately, for about three times the square footage and about twice the price that we were budgeting. We didn’t get any bids submitted for a lease option, so we have made the decision to cancel that tender, as it is over budget,” Streicker said.

The corporation is now planning to use the government’s existing liquor distribution centre and warehouse for storage, wholesale and e‑commerce distribution of cannabis, Streicker said. That means the government just has to find a retail space.

Liquor corporation spokesperson Scott Westerlaken said re-organizing the warehouse is expected to have a “minimal impact” on the government’s current selection of liquor and beer. The corporation has added more racks and storage capacity to the warehouse, he said in an email.

“There are options in terms of how the product is incorporated into the existing warehouse, but we will ensure it is in a secure location with controlled access,” he said.

Westerlaken said using the existing liquor warehouse was always being considered as a “fallback option.”

“Given that our intention is now to operate retail as an interim measure, we will seek dedicated retail space to store some product, and use the existing warehouse facility for central warehousing in the initial stages.”

Westerlaken said the cannabis requires a cool environment that is out of sunlight. Typically it needs to be stored below 15 C and will keep longer in cooler temperatures.

“Shelf life in the sealed containers, according to licensed producers is around 12 months for flower and 24 months for oils.”

In the beginning, only cannabis flowers, oils and seeds will be legalized. When the federal government eventually legalizes edibles and other “more bulky” products, “future storage requirements will look different,” he said

Streicker didn’t have many other details related to the plan for the retail store. Following question period he told the media the government is still deciding whether the retail location will be sole-sourced or put out to public tender. He didn’t have details yet on whether the government would be looking to lease or buy a property.

Steicker said he hoped to have more information “soon.”

He said the plan is still for the government’s store to be only temporary.

“We remain committed to having a retail space available for Yukoners by the time cannabis is legalized in the country and that for us will be an interim measure until such time as we are able to get the private sector up and running.”

The government’s timeline to make that happen is tight. The original tender, which closed at the end of February, said the space had to be ready on or before May 29.

Streicker acknowledged that the timeline had always been tight. He said the Yukon government has been bought some extra time by the process that is happening in Ottawa.

The federal government originally promised to legalize cannabis by July. But a vote in the senate scheduled for June 7 means Canadians will likely have to wait until August or September for recreational cannabis to be legalized, the federal health minister said earlier this year.

Whatever retail location is chosen, recent changes to City of Whitehorse bylaws means it will have to be in the Marwell neighbourhood.

“I’ve always said I wanted to work with our municipal partners. They were clear in where they want to go and I just respect that’s their jurisdiction,” Streicker said.

With files from the Canadian Press

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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