Yukon cannabis retailer 'frustrated' by delay in new online sales regulations

·3 min read
Jeremy Jones, founder and CEO of Triple J's Canna Space, says he's frustrated that the regulations for e-commerce and delivery services haven't been developed yet. He doesn't think they'll see them before next summer.  (Philippe Morin/CBC - image credit)
Jeremy Jones, founder and CEO of Triple J's Canna Space, says he's frustrated that the regulations for e-commerce and delivery services haven't been developed yet. He doesn't think they'll see them before next summer. (Philippe Morin/CBC - image credit)

A private cannabis retailer in the Yukon says it'll still take months to start selling their products online again — even though the territory has just made it one step closer to becoming legal to do so.

The Yukon government passed amendments to the Cannabis Control and Regulation Act as one of their final moves of the fall session, to let private retailers open up e-commerce and delivery services. The amendments will come into force after regulations are put in place.

In May 2020, the Yukon government put in place a temporary measure under the Civil Emergency Measures Act (CEMA) to let private cannabis retailers set up virtual shopping as a way to reduce the risk of going to brick-and-mortar stores in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jeremy Jones, co-owner of Triple J's Canna Space in Whitehorse, said their store invested "thousands of dollars" to make e-commerce possible, just for the act to be repealed last September. So now, they're only able to offer online orders for in-store pickup.

Philippe Morin/CBC
Philippe Morin/CBC

"It's hard to explain the frustration that we have, that [the amendments] could have happened a lot faster," Jones told CBC. "I mean, this wasn't a massive amount of work in my opinion."

A year later, Triple J's still needs to wait for the regulations to be put in place by the territorial government before giving e-commerce another go — a blow to Jones's small business.

"We have no idea how this is going to look, and what if it doesn't even work functionally right?" he said.

Around 30 percent of Triple J's total income came from online sales in that small window where they could operate, Jones said. It wouldn't take much for them to come back online, just the flip of a switch.

'It's actually pretty fast'

John Streicker worked on the legalization file in 2018 as the former minister in charge of the Yukon Liquor Corporation.

At first, he said there was apprehension to introduce online shopping because it would make it harder to dismantle the illicit market.

"You have to be careful about the online sales that you allow don't themselves become part of the illegal black market," Streicker explained.

Chris Windeyer/CBC
Chris Windeyer/CBC

Once legal cannabis sales outpaced the black market, the Yukon government decided to introduce online shopping through their retailer, Cannabis Yukon. Their sales made up only $12,000 of more than $6 million cannabis products sold in 2021, according to their most recent annual report.

Private retailers started asking for e-commerce options in 2020, Streicker said, so that's when the Yukon government started consultations.

He said the latest fall sitting was the "next opportunity" to pass the amendments, since the territorial election shortened 2021's spring sitting.

"I think it's fair that the private retailers would have liked it to have happened earlier, but it's actually pretty fast," Streicker said.

Jones said the government told them that the amendments were coming, but haven't talked about what e-commerce would look like in practice.

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