Quebec Marijuana Laws — What is Philippe Couillard Planning?

Quebec Marijuana Laws — What is Philippe Couillard Planning?

On October 17 Canada will legalize marijuana. But legalization will not look the same everywhere. From free market capitalism to a state-controlled monopoly, cannabis policy will vary across the provinces as drastically as it might from one country to another.

Even the enforcement side of things will vary greatly. Something that is perfectly acceptable in Ontario, might send you to prison in Manitoba. It is essential, therefore, to be informed of what exactly recreational cannabis legalization will look like across Canada.

Quebec is the first installment in our survey of weed policy across the provinces. So what form will Quebec marijuana laws take?

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The Plan

Quebec is set to have all the infrastructure needed for a cannabis economy set up and ready to go by September 1. This will enable the province to hit the ground running come federal legalization, October 17.

Quebec’s distribution and sale of weed will be entirely government owned and operated. Quebec marijuana laws dictate that through the SQDC (Société Québécoise du Cannabis), a number of physical stores will be established as well as online cannabis retailing.

The Bad

Not enough Stores

An SAQ store in Quebec to sell weed for $6 a gram,
Quebec plans to have only 15 stores operational in the near future… Given this, demand will undoubtedly exceed supply (image via MTL Blog)

Philippe Couillard has set up created a situation that will undoubtedly be a haven for the black market. Supply will be dwarfed by the demand for marijuana. The largest issue is perhaps the number of stores where Quebecers will be able to acquire cannabis.

Initially, Quebec intends to set up shop in only 15 brick and mortar locations. In a province of over 8 million, this will simply not do. For a frame of reference, there are currently 70 – 80 ‘grey market‘ dispensaries set up in the city of Toronto alone.

Ease of access will certainly be a problem, and those 15 stores are sure to be operating beyond maximum capacity. Purchasing weed online might be the only viable, legal option for many in the province of Quebec.

So what sort of system have Quebec marijuana laws created? Undoubtedly it will resemble a Buffalo Walmart on black Friday.

Quebec does plan to set up additional brick and mortar pot shops in the years to come. In the meantime, the black market will have ample time to get itself established and sap away valuable revenue from the province.

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Drugs Are Bad M’kay?

The scientific literature has spoken. Weed is less dangerous than alcohol… Much less dangerous. Yet even post-legalization, Quebec, and the SQDC will persist in treating the substance as a pariah.

Alcohol is advertised incessantly. Trillions of dollars are spent globally to get you to drink. Yet for some bizarre puritanical reason, the government of Quebec thinks it is unethical to advertise weed in the same way.

In fact, the SQDC is mandated to extinguish the black market, while simultaneously not encouraging the consumption of cannabis.  Despite weed being a safer, healthier, cheaper alternative to alcohol and the Quebec government being in the market for selling the plant… Promoting it would somehow be unethical.

Bouncer guards strip club, Weed legalization in Quebec
Bouncers guarding weed dispensaries is reinforcing stigmas around weed and makes dispensaries look like seedy strip clubs (image via HuffPost)

But the prejudiced treatment doesn’t end there. Rather than normalizing and destigmatizing the plant, the SQDC plans on reinforcing negative perceptions of marijuana further. Bouncers will be placed out front, IDing people before they walk in as if weed dispensaries were some sort of seedy strip joint.

Alcohol is sold in supermarkets, corner stores and gas stations in Quebec. Families and young children can walk next to this dangerous drug with no fear of being corrupted by exposure. Doesn’t weed deserve a similar treatment? Normalizing cannabis might be beneficial for the SQDC.

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The Good

An Excellent Price

Weed in Quebec will be cheap… A bargain in fact. On the black market, the standard price for cannabis is around ten dollars a gram. With a lack of stores and no advertising initiatives, Quebec must do something to capture its share of the marijuana market.

Mathieu Gaudreault, a spokesperson for the Société des Alcools du Québec, outlined the province’s philosophy on cannabis pricing.

“We have to have a realistic price to make sure that people come from the black market to the legal market… We don’t want to make the product more available than it is right now.”
The average price promised for Quebec’s Cannabis will be about $6 dollars a gram. Here the government has gotten something spot on.
Tasty Marijuana Buds, Quebec prices weed at $6 per gram
With weed priced competitively at $6 a gram, the Quebec government understands that it must squeeze out the black market by undercutting it

The province has acknowledged that while some new consumers will buy the government’s legal weed, many consumers who have bought from the black market their whole their life will have no problem doing so after legalization.

These people must be coaxed into switching over to legal cannabis, and setting the price lower than the black market can afford is a good start.


Quebec’s plan for the legalization of cannabis is far from perfect. Their lack of stores, as well as the stigma which the government plans to continue to reinforce, are causes for concern.

However, the Philippe Couillard administration does grasp one essential pragmatic reality of weed legalization. The black market can only be defeated by leaching away its customers. With this principle in mind, perhaps there is hope that the Philippe Couillard Government is open to amending its plans in the interest of pragmatism.

By: Stefan Hosko
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