Public consultations on the framework for cannabis legalization are underway today in Quebec. From now until September 12, citizens and organizations will be invited to complete an online questionnaire, take part in one of seven regional consultations and/or submit a written document such as an essay or letter.
Editor’s Note: This article has been translated from the original, available here.
Quebec has risen to the challenge with these provincial consultations, offering a variety of ways to get involved in the debate. This is especially impressive considering the initial reluctance shown by several stakeholders regarding the bill.
Since an expert forum was held in June, many have begun to nuance to their statements and to look ahead, signalling a shift in the discourse.
Three topics will be discussed: prevention and health, marketing and safety.
Thus far, the field of healthcare has voiced its opinions loudest. The health sector has played an important role in the public debate, raising concerns and statistics on the physical and psychological risks of cannabis consumption. The sector has even made proposals for distribution, advocating for a government-run or non-profit model.
Other stakeholders have also positioned themselves on distribution. Quebec-based giant Couche-Tard (Mac’s) has proposed to sell recreational cannabis through its Canada-wide network of convenience stores. For its part, the SAQ employee union has proposed a government-run model and was even open to the idea of selling through boutiques that would remain separate from its liquor stores. This proposal has also been backed by unions, top universities and stakeholders in the field of healthcare.
Since Quebec has only a handful of dispensaries, its influence on this matter is unlikely to be significant.
We can expect licensed producers in Quebec to make the same proposals as those in the other provinces. That is, a private, competitive distribution model that would allow LP’s to be involved and a regulatory framework that would make room for a certain level of differentiation in terms of product and brand image.
On the issue of security, stakeholders in road safety and police forces have already spelled out the risks and communicated their needs in terms of detection equipment and training budgets. We will have to wait and see if any further proposals or requests will be submitted.
Thus far, there has been little discussion regarding place of consumption, with the exception of hookah bar owners who have advocated for a permit system. Bar and restaurant owners have yet to be heard, nor have the municipalities, except to request a portion of tax revenues. Will they support economic development or share their concerns regarding the location of distribution outlets?
The general-public variable is another unknown, although the most recent CROP/Radio-Canada poll revealed that the proportion of Quebeckers opposed to legalization is higher than in the other provinces despite widespread consumption and Quebec’s tolerant culture vis-à-vis public consumption relative to neighbouring provinces.
It is altogether possible that the people who will take the time to attend consultations will do so to voice their concerns rather than state their affections for the substance. This may be especially true outside of cities, following the usual divide in public opinion. But it may also be possible that consumers feel that the path is now clear to speak their minds and express themselves publicly.
Nationalism and other ‘Made in Quebec’ surprises
Seeing that arguments of economic nationalism were raised during consultations in Alberta, it would be surprising if similar points of view didn’t at least make an appearance in Quebec.
Although they have been discreet thus far, several Quebec-based entrepreneurs and organizations are eyeing the industry and beginning to establish their positioning. Some are waiting to be granted a production license, while others are coveting transformation and ancillary operations.
These consultations will provide a first glimpse into an emerging Made in Québec cannabis ecosystem.
Got your popcorn ready?
To take part:
Quebec-based citizens, groups and associations may choose a method of participation and register at https://encadrementcannabis.gouv.qc.ca/consultation/a-propos/.
The regional tour gets underway tomorrow in Rimouski. It will continue westward with stops in Quebec City, Saguenay, Trois-Rivières, Granby, Montreal and Gatineau.
Translated by Adrian Adams
Editor’s Note: This article has been translated from the original, written by Caroline Lavoie, available here. Lavoie is a public affairs consultant at Octane, where she offers pan-Canadian advice related to cannabis legalization. Through mandates with industry actors and her participation in various activities in this emerging sector, Caroline has developed an expertise that is unique in Quebec. With a public policy background, she also contributes to the debate on this issue as a conference speaker and blogger. Her previous experience with policy institutes at the Canadian and international levels allows gives her a cross-cutting outlook on public affairs and allows her to devise strategies adapted for the specific market that is Quebec.