Yukon government to close its pot store

The Yukon government will close its cannabis store in Whitehorse next month, after exactly a year in business.

The Cannabis Yukon store opened on Oct. 17, 2018, the day pot became legal in Canada. At the time, the Yukon government said the store would be temporary, and would close once a private retail industry was established in the territory.

There are now two private retailers operating in Yukon — one in Whitehorse that opened last spring, and one in Dawson City that opened this summer.

Three other retail licences have been issued (two in Whitehorse, one in Carmacks), though the stores have not yet opened. Three more licence applications (two more in Whitehorse, one in Watson Lake) are still before the Cannabis Licensing Board.

"I think we had a sense from almost right away that the private sector was going to come out solid and strong in the Yukon, and it just looked to us like the private sector was doing exactly as we thought," said John Streicker, minister responsible for the Yukon Liquor Corporation.

The government plans to put out a tender for bids to purchase the Marwell area store or its assets. The store could be sold as a turnkey operation, with the buyer applying for a new retail licence.

The Yukon Liquor Corporation will review any bids and decide whether to sell the store as a complete operation.

$4M sold since last year

Streicker says Yukon continues to see more legal sales of pot, per person, than other jurisdictions. He says the government has sold just under $4 million worth of cannabis products since legalization, taking a big bite out of the black market.

The government will continue to be the wholesaler for the territory, and will also continue to sell cannabis online, so Yukoners in all communities can access legal pot.

Alexandra Byers/CBC

Streicker doesn't expect retail prices to change much once the government's store closes.

"Private retailers have room to adjust their pricing, but they like us are interested to displace the black market. And you know, once you have a couple or a few private retailers out there, there's also a competitive market," he said.

"We're trying to make sure that when we get the cannabis to our private retailers, that we keep the prices as low as we can."

The government store will close on Oct. 17 at 7 p.m.