A sign outside the Yellowknife Liquor Shop on Wednesday shows the difficulties that have marked the first month of legalization in the North.
“Unfortunately we’re sold out. Product won’t be available until further notice” the sign reads accompanied by a picture of cannabis plants sporting a frowning face. Tuesday was not the first time Yellowknifers saw the sign hanging on the shop’s front door. The supply struggles have been apparent since Oct. 17 – the first day of legalization – when the store sold out by 5p.m. The store then sold out the next day and again on Oct. 22. According to the shop’s Facebook page, they weren’t resupplied until Oct. 25.
Yellowknife’s store is not alone, a national supply shortage of legal cannabis has been credited to suppliers and manufacturers not being able to keep up with the demand for the newly legalized drug. In the NWT, all legal cannabis is controlled and distributed by the GNWT, which currently has contracts with three different manufacturers.
“There is a nationwide shortage of cannabis which has impacted all major Canadian networks over the last several weeks. This shortage is expected to last well into the new year,” stated Department of Finance spokesperson Todd Sasaki in an email.
Sasaki also noted the GNWT had originally ordered 30 kilograms of cannabis for the first day of legalization but only received six kilograms in time for opening day sales and have sold out of that initial order.
“NWT Liquor and Cannabis Commission (NTLCC) received 20 per cent (approximately six kilograms) of its initial order, which is consistent with other jurisdictions across the country. None of the initial 20 per cent received is left in inventory,” stated Sasaki. “NTLCC has received additional cannabis orders since the initial shipment and more cannabis is being shipped over the next couple of weeks.”
When asked what the NTLCC has done to secure more vendors to improve the cannabis supply in the territory, Sasaki stated “The Northwest Territories Liquor and Cannabis Commission (NTLCC) has been working with both current and new suppliers trying to secure additional product.”
While supply has been an issue throughout the month, shipping of legal cannabis has not been smooth sailing in a territory that currently has five brick and mortar stores in five of it’s 33 communities. During the first week of legalization Kam Lake MLA Kieron Testart stated on the floor of the legislature that he had received complaints from constituents their orders were not being shipped. Sasaki stated there had been initial delays, but that the cannabis commission has since fixed those issues.
“While we experienced some delays during the first week of legalization, all orders are now being shipped within one business day of when they are received. As of end of business on Friday, Nov.17, 159 of 160 online orders have been shipped,” stated Sasaki.
Legalization of cannabis was implemented to curb the black market and illegal sales of the drug. It is unclear exactly how the supply shortages and other complications of legalization has affected that goal
Owners of the Yellowknife Liquor Shop were not available for comment as of press time.