The Priorities Committee within Quebec’s Council of Ministers has reportedly reached a decision as to how the legal framework for cannabis distribution is to take shape in the province. According to La Presse, Quebec will establish a similar model to Ontario’s provincially owned LCBO monopoly, but with a few key distinguishing features.
All profits from sales are to be designated for prevention and public health initiatives, and the province will devote less resources to brick-and-mortar retail stores, providing instead a platform for online, delivery-based retail sales.
While Ontario’s plan for 150 point-of-sale locations begins with 40 outlets in the first year, Quebec is set to establish only 20. This may seem counterintuitive given that Quebec is the largest province south of the territories and more than double the size of most Canadian provinces. However, with roughly one fifth of its population living in rural areas, Quebec’s online delivery system could allow access to residents of smaller communities that would otherwise be unsupplied due to geographical challenges.
Until recently, discussions have focused on maintaining health considerations as the chief priority in developing the new framework, but committee members have observed that the province’s health ministry lacks the expertise needed to spearhead the commercialization of a new market. The decision was made to create a new Crown corporation as a subsidiary of the Société des alcools du Québec (SAC), the province’s answer to Ontario’s LCBO.
Leveraging the expertise and infrastructure already in place, SAC will provide guidance for the new subsidiary corporation. But the subsidiary will have an explicitly non-commercial ethos, with no mandate to maximize profits, and no requirement to pay dividends to the government.