Yukon's 1st private pot retailer now open, in time for 4/20

The first privately-owned cannabis retail store in the North opened on Thursday morning in downtown Whitehorse.

Triple J's Canna Space received its licence from Yukon's Cannabis Licensing Board on Wednesday, the day owners Jordi Mikeli-Jones and Jeremy Jones originally hoped to open.

But they were all smiles on Wednesday as they received a copy of their licence, and added some finishing touches to their Wood Street store.

Their goal was to open in time for Saturday, which is 4/20 — a day that's become associated with celebrations of cannabis culture. 

"We've just put in a tremendous amount of money, heart, soul, energy, blood, sweat and tears — and we're very, very happy with the final product," Mikeli-Jones said of the store.

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Mikeli-Jones said they've been working for four years to get to this point. Even before the federal government announced plans to legalise cannabis, they were looking into opening medical marijuana dispensary.

So when legalization happened, exactly six months ago, they were well on their way. 

"We had spent months if not years facilitating that [retail application] package. So we were just literally chomping at the bit to submit it," Mikeli-Jones said.

'They did their homework,' says board chair

Dave Sloan, chair of the Cannabis Licensing Board, said Triple J's 300-page application covered all the bases and "came through with excellent, flying colours."

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"They did their homework. They had really a bulletproof application, in terms of completeness, in terms of the kind of a business plan they had, what their plans were for this facility."

Sloan says dealing with Triple J's was a "learning process" for the newly-created board and its "quite convoluted" process of reviewing applications.

"I think we sort of thought that it would just kind of sail on through, but we discovered things in the process that will inform us in the future," he said.

"This is the start of, I think, a new and pretty exciting industry up here," he said.

The Yukon government's cannabis retail store in Whitehorse will stay in business for now, but the government has said it will close the store once a private retail industry is established.

The government will also continue to be the territory's only wholesale distributor of cannabis products.

Gov't sets up 'roadblocks' for business, opposition says

In the Yukon Legislature on Wednesday, opposition MLAs took the government to task for its approach to retail cannabis.

Yukon Party MLA Wade Istchenko said the government had set up unnecessary "roadblocks" for private business, and "changed the goalposts" many times, costing Triple J's Canna Space a day in lost business.

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John Streicker, minister responsible for the Yukon Liquor Corporation, responded by saying Triple J's Canna Space chose to advertise their opening day even before they had a licence in hand.

Streicker also said it's up to the independent Cannabis Licensing Board to review retail applications and issue licenses — not the government.

"I'm sure they wanted to make sure they dotted their i's and crossed their t's, and I'm glad they want to do that — that's their role."

He also said that he welcomed the new retail store, saying he's happy if it can put the government's store out of business.

The government has sold more than $2 million worth of pot since legalization, or about 140 kilograms.

Streicker says Yukon has the highest per-capita sales of legal cannabis in the country, which he takes as a sign that the territory is leading the way in displacing black-market pot sales.