Drugs

Quebec Plans to Open 20 Government-Run Weed Stores

Don't delete your dealer's number just yet.
November 15, 2017, 10:27pm

The provincial government in Quebec will officially unveil its plan to regulate weed sales tomorrow.

According to Radio-Canada, the sale of cannabis will be overseen by a branch of the Société des alcools du Québec, the provincial liquor retailer, which plans to open 20 storefronts dedicated to weed sales across Quebec.

Quebecers will also be able to buy their weed online at the as-yet-unnamed subsidiary's site. Delivery will nonetheless be restricted to Canada Post and recipients will be required to show ID before taking delivery. The legal age is expected to be set at 18, or the same as it is for alcohol.

One branch per 300,000 Quebecers

The number of storefronts works out to about one for every 339,000 citizens.

Jean-Sebastien Fallu, a professor at the University of Montreal specializing in drug addiction, says he's reassured by the plan to sell over the web, but suspects the 20 stores won't do much to eradicate the black market.

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"It's too little for Quebec, that's clear," he told VICE. "I understand that we want to limit access, but if we limit it too much, it will actually favour the black market and its negative consequences."

Among the consequences he raised: the lack of quality control, ignorance of the THC or CBD content of products, contact with dangerous or otherwise unsavoury people, and exposure to other substances.

He's also worried by the fact Quebec is considering adopting a zero-tolerance policy on driving after smoking weed and the ban on growing it for personal use. "From the beginning, all the specialists have said we need to find a happy medium. But we are not there. What Quebec is proposing is too restrictive. "

Justin Trudeau has often said that legalization would eradicate the black market for cannabis, pointing to the fact there's no black market for alcohol. But alcohol is much more complex to produce than weed, and, critically, it's also much more accessible. The SAQ has 400 branches in the province and a total of 840 points of sale. That's not to mention all the grocery stores and convenience stores where you can buy alcohol, the hundreds of bars and restaurants that serve it, and the people who produce it for personal consumption.

One thing is obvious: there will be huge demand for legal weed in Quebec. Cannabis Culture's six illegal dispensaries in Montreal opened to huge lineups last fall before they were promptly shut down.

What we don't know yet

Of course, all of this is speculation at this stage. It's possible the number of branches will grow quickly. Quebec has said it wants to its legislation match that in Ontario, which plans to open 40 stores next summer and 80 more the following year.

In a press conference Wednesday morning, Public Health Minister Lucie Charlebois and Finance Minister Carlos Leitao said the government's measures would evolve over time, while also asking Ottawa to delay legalization by a year to allow for more negotiations on revenue-sharing between the federal government and the provinces.

Jean Sébastien Fallu for one, would rather see legalization go ahead as soon as possible. "I think it's urgent, even if we're not quite ready. We have to stop criminalizing people."

Justine de l'Église is on Twitter .

This article originally appeared on VICE Québec.