2 years in, legal cannabis sales in Yukon are booming
Yukon Party says government wholesale drives up prices and reduces selection
Yukoners remain Canada's reigning champions of legal cannabis consumption.
Saturday marks the second anniversary of legal marijuana sales in Canada and Yukon's minister responsible for cannabis sales says people in the territory buy more legal weed on a per capita basis than any other jurisdiction in Canada.
In the Legislative Assembly on Thursday, Minister John Streicker said Yukoners bought more than $9 million worth of legal cannabis between October 2018 and the end of August 2020.
Streicker said those figures show legalization has been a success.
"We are seeing legal cannabis sales trend higher in the Yukon and across Canada, and we know this is displacing more and more of the illicit market," he said.
Government meddling with private sector, opposition says
The opposition Yukon Party says the government has meddled too much with the private sector. Kluane MLA Wade Istchenko said the government's role as the sole legal wholesaler drives up prices and reduces selection.
"They have granted themselves a monopoly on the distribution of cannabis in the Yukon and thus inserted government directly in the middle of the supply chain," Istchenko said.
Streicker said it makes sense for the government to oversee wholesale to private retailers because even though it's legal, marijuana is still a controlled substance. And he said Cannabis Yukon's policy is to break even on wholesale.
"Our two chief goals here have been, all along, to displace the black market and to support the health and wellness of Yukoners," Streicker said. "Like alcohol, it is a controlled substance, and we will continue to control it. Unlike alcohol, we are not selling it as a government; it is only private retail."
Private online sales will return, minister vows
Opposition leader Stacey Hassard criticized the government for withdrawing a temporary policy that allowed private retailers to make online sales. That policy, which was issued under the territory's Civil Emergency Measures Act, was withdrawn in September.
"Allowing online sales for local cannabis retailers provided an opportunity to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic on these businesses," Hassard said. "Then, without debate or discussion, the Liberals abruptly ended this opportunity for these businesses."
Streicker said the government cancelled the order allowing online sales because it was no longer needed as a measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19. He said it was also because the government does not want to have ministerial orders, which are not approved by votes in the Legislative Assembly, in effect longer than required.
Streicker said the government plans to bring back legal online sales through an amendment to the territory's Cannabis Control and Regulation Act.
The Yukon government offers online sales to ensure that all communities in the territory can buy legal cannabis. But those sales totalled less than $25,000, a tiny fraction of overall sales.