Licensing board snubs out 2 proposed pot stores in Whitehorse

Yukon's Cannabis Licensing Board has decided against two retail applications to sell cannabis in Whitehorse.

The board snubbed out two proposed new stores in the city, because both would be too close to a school — the Individual Learning Centre (ILC).

One pot store would have gone into the former Salvation Army thrift store on Fourth Ave. The space has been vacant since 2017.

The other would have opened next to the government liquor store, in a plaza on Second Ave.

In a couple of written decisions issued on Oct. 29, the Cannabis Licensing Board found no problems with either proposed store — except for their proximity to the learning centre. Under Yukon's cannabis regulations, a pot store has to be at least 150 metres from any elementary or secondary school.

The board decided that the ILC — a drop-in learning centre for youth aged 15 to 21 who want an alternative to regular high school — is effectively a high school. 

Paul Tukker/CBC

"The ILC operates under the Education Act, ILC staff are employees of the Department of Education, and the ILC is administered by the Yukon Department of Education," the board explains in both written decisions.

"The ILC meets the definition of a 'secondary school.'"

The Hobo Recreational Cannabis Store on Fourth Avenue would have been 109 metres from the ILC, and the Herbary on Second Avenue would have been 63 metres away.

Yukon's Cannabis Control and Regulation Act states as one of its main purposes to "protect young persons and discourage their access to, and consumption of, cannabis."

Awarding the new licences would run contrary to that objective, the board decided.

One of the applicants, Chad Cole of Hobo Recreational Cannabis, said his company spent about $60,000 so far trying to open a Whitehorse store. His company now has four stores in B.C. and one in Ontario.

He said he felt "railroaded" by the Yukon board's decision, because the ILC had not been identified as a school on material that he'd seen. He said he wasn't sure whether it was possible to find an alternative space in Whitehorse, to apply again.   

Richard Fuller, COO of the Herbary, said in an email to CBC that his company was also disappointed, but respects the board's decision. He also had high praise for how the board handled the application.

"I think their decision — despite not being in our favour — is a testament to the integrity of the application and licensing process. I think the people of Whitehorse — and the Yukon generally — should know that the [licensing board] has their best interests at heart," the email reads.

Objections from other retailers

These were the first retail license applications rejected by Yukon's Cannabis Licensing Board. 

Three have been granted so far in Whitehorse, although one of those stores has not yet opened. Another store is open in Dawson City, and one is expected to open next month in Carmacks. The Yukon government is the territory's wholesaler, and also sells cannabis online. 

Paul Tukker/CBC

Two licensed retailers — Triple J's Canna Space in Whitehorse, and Dawson City Cannabis — formally objected to the two recent applications from the Herbary and Hobo Recreational Cannabis, suggesting the Yukon market may be saturated.

"The principal concerns expressed dealt with issues of cannabis supply and commercial viability of existing stores if more licenses are granted by the board," the board's decisions read.

The board, however, decided it wasn't their problem.

"The [Cannabis Control and Regulation Act] and regulations do not direct the board to consider market factors, competition, and the viability of existing businesses," the decisions read.

"The board finds the objections related to these issues to be outside of its jurisdiction."