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Yukon has 'begun to displace the black market,' as legal cannabis sales top $2M

'That is one of our main goals,' says John Streicker, minister responsible for the Yukon Liquor Corporation.

'That is one of our main goals,' says minister John Streicker

Products at the government-run Cannabis Yukon retail store in Whitehorse. The government says its pot sales have topped $2 million in the first five months since legalization. (Claudiane Samson/Radio-Canada)

The Yukon government's cannabis sales have taken a substantial bite out of the local black market, according to the minister responsible for the territory's liquor corporation.

"Sales in the Yukon have now broken $2 million," said John Streicker.

"We know that by legalizing cannabis, we have begun to displace the black market. And that is one of our main goals."

Streicker was responding to questions in the Legislative Assembly from NDP Leader Liz Hanson, who asked whether the government was tracking illicit cannabis sales to confirm the impact of legalization.

She pointed to Statistics Canada data from the fourth quarter of 2018 — when cannabis became legal — that showed Canadians were still spending considerably more on illegal pot than on legal pot. Black market sales accounted for nearly 80 per cent of all spending on marijuana in that period.

"If Yukon's sale of illicit cannabis matches that of the Canadian average, then we can assume that there is roughly $6.8 million in illicit sales still going on in Yukon," Hanson said.

Streicker said it's impossible to measure accurately. Before legalization, the government only had estimates of how big the illegal trade was in the territory.  

'By legalizing cannabis, we have begun to displace the black market. And that is one of our main goals,' said John Streicker, minister responsible for the Yukon Liquor Corporation. (CBC)

"The very nature of it being 'black market' makes it very difficult to come up with those exact numbers. It's not like people are standing up and telling us, 'I have this much black market for sale over here' — because when they do, we send the RCMP," he said.  

"What we have is sales, that show us that that much has not gone into the black market." 

The government is aiming to eventually get out of the marijuana retail business altogether, once private retailers are up and running.

Streicker said Monday that the licensing board has now received three retail licence applications, two in Whitehorse and one outside of Whitehorse.

"So that is progressing as we had hoped," he said.

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