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Yukon leads Canadian cannabis sales two years after legalization

Private retailers still asking for changes that would allow online sales
Triple J’s Canna Space in Whitehorse on April 17, 2019, opens their first container of product. Two years after Canada legalized the sale of cannabis, Yukon leads the country in per capita legal sales. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Two years after Canada legalized the sale of cannabis, the Yukon leads the country in per capita legal sales.

John Streicker, the minister responsible for the Yukon Liquor Corporation, provided an update on Oct. 15.

Total sales, without GST, from the 2019-2020 fiscal year were over $4.8 million. Revenue from 2019 was just over $2 million.

“According to Statistics Canada, our Yukon private retail is outselling Saskatchewan by 65 per cent, our sales are twice those of the Northwest Territories and 4.5 times Ontario on a per capita basis,” Streicker said.

The vast majority of sales were for dried flower at 417 kilograms, while oil, edibles, concentrates and seeds made up the rest. Streicker said 150 cannabis products from 12 different licensed producers are available in the territory.

Yukon was also the leader in volume of alcohol purchased per capita across the country in 2019, according to Statistics Canada data. Those stats indicate that Yukoners purchased 5,337 litres of alcohol over the 2018-2019 fiscal year.

The Annual Cannabis Report also includes health-related statistics. In 2018, there were 86 visits made to emergency departments in the Yukon associated with cannabis. In comparison, there were 1,569 alcohol-related visits to the ER in the 2012-2013 fiscal year.

Streicker said the territory is not using the industry as a money-making venture but aims to displace the black market and support the private sector.

“Like alcohol, it is a controlled substance, and we will continue to control it,” he said. “We are not trying to earn any revenue for the government through cannabis. We want to try to keep the price as low as possible. We’ll continue that work.”

Private retailers, opposition still asking for changes

Triple J’s Canna Space was the first private retail shop opened after their licence was issued in April 2019. Since then four other private retailers have opened; two in Whitehorse, one in Dawson City and one in Carmacks.

Jeremy Jones, co-owner of Triple J’s, said high sales were not a surprise to him, but there are still issues with the Yukon system that need to be resolved to allow private retailers to thrive.

“Yukoners have always liked cannabis. I grew up here and I understand the markets,” Jones said. “[If we’re outselling Saskatchewan] that tells me that in Saskatchewan, people don’t like cannabis. It doesn’t tell me anything about the business model that’s being used.”

On Oct. 15 opposition critic Wade Istchenko questioned how much the black market has been eradicated and criticized the continued involvement by the government in control of the market.

Istchenko said the government should allow private retailers to negotiate directly with suppliers. He also criticized the decision to rescind a temporary order allowing online sales for private retailers over the summer.

Jones said that his store took advantage of the ministerial order, opening an online shop that allowed Yukoners to place online or telephone orders and pick up products at the store. Previously customers had to come into the store to pay.

Jones said in addition to making sure staff and customers felt safe during the pandemic, online sales were also much stronger at Triple J’s than the amounts suggested by the government’s online sales.

When that order was rescinded Sept. 10, it rendered the changes to the website moot and impacted sales.

Currently, the store operated by the Yukon Liquor Corporation is the only retailer in the territory that can legally fulfill online orders and deliver by mail, although The Cannabis Yukon store no longer has a physical location.

“We’re already struggling with a lot of regulation in the cannabis industry. It seems a little excessive to restrict retailers from being able to deliver their product,” Jones said.

“We think it is a great idea,” Streicker said following questions about allowing private retailers to have online stores.

“When we brought the order in place, it was because at first we were concerned about lineups at our stores and we wanted to make it easier so that people could order online and just come in and pick up so that we would allow for physical spacing,” he said.

“Later on, after we entered through various phases, we saw that it was getting safer and safer for Yukoners to be in stores, so we felt that it was inappropriate to continue to use the pandemic to bring in an order,” he said.

Streicker said modifications to the Cannabis Control and Regulation Act to allow private sellers to fulfill online orders will come, but through “a proper process” rather than temporary emergency orders.

Contact Haley Ritchie at