Will Yukoners get 'value' with legal pot? Government sets marijuana price at $8 per gram

The Yukon government aims to undercut the illegal marijuana market in the territory, setting the price for pot at $8 a gram, which officials say is cheaper than marijuana sold illegally.

The Whitehorse retail location on Industrial Road will sell a gram of marijuana starting at $8

The prices for marijuana in the store will begin at $8 per gram plus taxes. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

The Yukon government aims to undercut the illegal marijuana market in the territory, setting the price for pot at $8 a gram, which officials say is cheaper than marijuana sold illegally. 

"Our plan is to try to compete [with] or eliminate the illicit market, so the $8 a gram puts a value option in there," said Steve Cummings, the director of operations for the Yukon Liquor Corporation.

The average price per gram for non-medical marijuana is $9.52 in Yukon, about $2 higher than the national average of $7.43, Statistics Canada reports.

The store will temporarily be on Industrial Road in a building currently under a Yukon government lease. Cummings said the exact opening date of the store is still unknown, but the liquor corporation is looking at Sept. 1 as a tentative date.

The federal law hasn't been passed by Parliament yet, but it's expected to happen this summer. 

Cummings said the store over time will add higher-priced premium pot.

"There should be a wide selection whereas perhaps on your corner dealer right now is not as good a selection," he said.

Space in this building on Industrial Road in Whitehorse will serve as the Yukon Liquor Corporation's temporary cannabis store until the private sector takes over retail sales in the city. (Paul Tukker/CBC)

He said another advantage over buying black market pot is that the product in the government store will be tested for unsafe additives.

Cummings said the goal is to eventually close the store when regulations are in place to let the private sector take over retail sales.

"We are opening up as a kind of a primary showcase store, to kind of show what the private sector should look like," he said.

The store will sell cannabis and oils. Cummings said edibles won't be available until they're legalized by the federal government. That won't happen until next year at the earliest.

He said the liquor corporation still hasn't decided whether to sell accessories like bud grinders and pipes.

Cummings said the store also has a duty to educate the public about the potential health and other risks associated with marijuana use.

The liquor corporation plans to sell premium brands of marijuana in addition to the lower priced value option. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC)

"Yes, we're opening up the retail operations, but with our dual mandate, we're not promoting the sale of cannabis, we are facilitating it," he said

The liquor corporation has looked at the experience of other jurisdictions where pot is sold in retail stores including Vancouver and Skagway, Alaska, said Cummings.

But there's still a sense of history being made in Yukon.

"It is all brand new, we don't know what's going to happen here, and I mean it is such a huge change.

 "It's a brand new product out there, you don't have a lot of new product introductions like this as monumental as what we're seeing here," he said.

There will be taxes

The $8 per gram does not include taxes. An example provide by the federal finance department says an $8 gram would cost $9 plus GST. 

The liquor corporation says an adult can buy up to 30 grams of dried cannabis, or equivalent, per transaction. Equivalents are 150 grams fresh cannabis or 30 cannabis plant seeds.

The most that can be possessed in public is 30 grams of dried cannabis, or equivalent. A police officer can issue a ticket or lay a criminal charge if a person is caught with more than that.

The corporation says there is no limit on how much cannabis can be kept at home, but there can be no more than 4 plants in a home. It says adults are responsible for keeping children safe from the plants and their products.

'Yukon Bud'? 

The liquor corporation also announced Thursday that it made a deal with Ottawa-based Canopy Growth Corporation to supply marijuana to the store, its second agreement with a supplier. 

It will purchase product from local growers, once any are licensed by the federal government. There aren't any licensed producers in Yukon yet.  

The corporation says it can sign on as many suppliers as it wants depending on demand.