Yukon's government pot store made money, minister says
Now-closed government store in Whitehorse ended up $192,605 in the black
The Yukon government made money selling legal pot over this last year, according to the minister responsible.
John Streicker, minister for the Yukon Liquor Corporation and therefore the territory's cannabis regime, told the Yukon Legislature on Wednesday that the final numbers were in — and the now-closed government store sold more than $3.2 million worth of pot, putting the government $192,605 in the black.
"Overall, cannabis legalization in the Yukon has been profitable. We are displacing the illicit market, and the rollout has been safe and well-executed, by both the private sector and the public sector," Streicker said.
The Yukon government opened its retail store in Whitehorse on the day marijuana was legalized in Canada — Oct. 17, 2018 — and held a monopoly on retail sales for six months, until the territory's first private retail store opened in the city.
Six months further on, the government closed its store on the anniversary of its opening.
Streicker said the goal all along was for the government store to break even. It was just shy of that goal, before the shuttered store's assets were recently sold off for $200,000, according to Streicker.
"If you look at any store that's out there, it doesn't usually pay off its initial investment in the first year. So, not only did we pay off that investment, we made additional money."
Last month, the opposition Yukon Party referred to an Access to Information request that asked for costs associated with the retail store, which the party says came back redacted. The party contended the government may have lost as much as $1.1 million operating its store.
Streicker responded Wednesday, saying the opposition had been "speculating rather randomly."
Displacing the black market
According to Streicker, the government and private retailers in Yukon together sold about 370 kilograms of pot in the first year of legalization.
He said comparing that to national statistics on Yukon's overall consumption suggests that legal sales have displaced "somewhere between 35 and 40 per cent" of the black market.
"This is significant," he said.
NDP Leader Kate White commended the government for doing a "good job" on cannabis legalization, but she also suggested there might be better ways of measuring the impact on the black market.
"Perhaps instead of relying on a national survey, a similar Yukon-specific survey could provide the Yukon government with insights on what steps they could take to further displace the illicit market here in Yukon," she said.
White also said many Yukon pot consumers complain that the stuff they used to score illegally was "both better and cheaper" than what they now buy from legal retailers.
The government is still the territory's wholesaler, and Streicker agreed that "we do have to get the price down."
But he rejected the complaints about quality.
"I wouldn't agree that the product that's sold legally here in the territory is not better. I think it is better," he told the legislature.
Written by Paul Tukker, with files from Chris Windeyer