The Northwest Territories government has bowed out of online cannabis sales, handing over to Yellowknife-based private retailer ReLeaf NT.
Sales from the territorial government’s website were paltry in comparison to sales in stores. In the period between April and June 2021, the latest for which data is available, the NWT government sold cannabis worth $2 million in stores and $4,600 online.
In March last year, the CBC reported the store had cost nearly $300,000 to create and around $200,000 per year to operate, but was bringing in less than $30,000 annually in sales – a figure that has since shrunk.
The territorial government had previously stated it hoped to do better by outsourcing online operations to a private vendor. Products sold online by private retailers must still be sourced from the NWT Liquor and Cannabis Commission, much as the territory’s liquor stores sell products acquired through the commission.
Cannabis was legalized in Canada three years ago, on October 17, 2018.
On Monday, virtually three years to the day since that development, the territory announced its own store was closed and instead directed people to ReLeaf, currently the only NWT private vendor with an online presence.
“ReLeaf NT is a northern-owned and operated business. Orders will be received, fulfilled, and shipped by employees in Yellowknife,” the territorial government stated, adding only ReLeaf had to date shown any interest in running an online store.
ReLeaf’s online storefront listed more than 200 products as of Monday, though some menu links appeared not to work.
By contrast, the NWT government’s former cannabis sales website stated: “This store is currently closed.”
While ReLeaf must work within the bounds of what the commission allows it to sell, the retailer is widely expected to push the commission to be a little more inventive in sourcing products that better meet customer demand and drive sales.
ReLeaf could not be immediately reached for comment on Monday.
Previously, ReLeaf’s John Maduke said he saw “unlimited potential” in the Yellowknife market. ReLeaf has operated a physical store in the city since April 2019, first stocking vaporizers and other accessories before the company acquired a licence to sell cannabis in December 2020.