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EARLY SUPPLY CHALLENGES FOR SQDC IN QUÉBEC
The individual provincial or territorial legislation that provides the legal framework for cultivation, purchasing, possession and consumption under the federal cannabis act varies from one jurisdiction to another. The rules can also change quickly, for example in Ontario distribution was originally to be entirely overseen by the government operated Ontario Cannabis Stores (OCS). When the Ford government came to power that changed, now there will be a network of privately-run stores.
In Québec, presently, as of the age of 18 Quebecers are able to purchase, possess, and consume cannabis for non-medical purposes. There is no personal cultivation permitted in the province, though except certain municipalities and public spaces smoking marijuana is permitted anywhere cigarettes may be consumed. The distribution of cannabis in the province is overseen by the Societe Québecoise de Cannabis (SQDC).
All of this was provided for under Bill 157, the Act to constitute the Societe Québecoise du cannabis, to enact the Cannabis Regulation Act and to amend various highway safety-related provisions, which was passed under the former Liberal government in 2018.
Like Ontario, Québec experienced a change in government and with it a proposed change in the province's cannabis framework. Almost as soon as the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) took the reigns of government, they introduced a bill that would tighten restrictions on who, and where individuals can consume their cannabis.
The CAQ's Bill 2, An Act to tighten the regulation of cannabis, which was introduced into the National Assembly in November seeks to raise the legal age to purchase and consume cannabis to 21. The Act would ban smoking in all public spaces, you could only smoke cannabis on your property. The changes impact renters differently than property owners, and owners could unilaterally rewrite rental leases to ban smoking in their properties.
Despite the changes in Québec's cannabis framework the industry and the SQDC continue to operate and develop. Last week we saw how OCS and the BC Liquor Division Branch's BC Cannabis Stores dealt with the early operations of the new market. This week we had the chance to communicate with the SQDC's Spokesperson, Fabrice Giguère.
Giguère related that in the "first three months of operation, [the SQDC] recorded approximately 860,000 transactions."
When the SQDC supply issues lead the state enterprise to alter the opening hours of its branches from seven days a week to just four. When asked about these early challenges Giguère replied: "Supply remains a challenge for which we work closely with our suppliers to meet our demand." He added that the challenges affect both the branches and website.
"Despite these challenges, in November, the number of kilograms distributed by the SQDC represented 35% of the total volume of non-medical cannabis sold in Canada."
Fabrice Giguère, Spokesperson for the SQDC
The legal recreational cannabis market is its infancy, a fact reflected in the Giguère's comments. "We operate in an industry that is only a few months old." He added, "it must, therefore, be given time to adapt to the realities of the legal market."
The SQDC sources its supply "from six accredited suppliers who are all Canadian," Giguère said. Despite the bumps in the road early on for the SQDC, the organization remains optimistic while at the same time realistic. Giguère underlined "our ambition has always been to open our branches seven days a week, [though] this will only be possible when the supply justifies it."
We asked how the SQDC is preparing for the eventual legalization of edible cannabis products. Giguère said that "it is too early to comment on this issue since the Québec government has not yet legislated on the sale and consumption of edible products." He added, "when it does, we will comply fully with the law and its provisions."
In the period before the coming into force of the Cannabis Act last October 10% of Québecers, aged 15 or older reported consuming cannabis, which was below the Canadian average of 15%. In the final three months of 2018, Québec is more in line with the Canadian average, and now 14% of Québecers in the same age range reported consuming cannabis.
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