The first thing to know is in Quebec, convenience stores are called ‘Depanneurs’. The name literally translates to ‘repair-person’. Ah, the two solitudes… In any case, the lobbying for the future of legal weed distribution in Quebec continues to heat up.

In a Saturday piece, Pierre Couture in <<Le Journal de Quebec>> describes  the convenience store association of Quebec’s position on retail sales. To my absolute non-surprise they are all in with Couche-Tard’s position.

The l’Association des détaillants en alimentation du Québec (ADA) represents over 8000 members in the province of Quebec. Theres no official english translation of their name on their site, so I’ll go with the Snack-Floggers Association of Quebec (SFAQ).

Pierre-Alexandre Blouin, the president of the SF- fine, the ADA, had this to say (translation mine):

“We already sell tightly regulated and controlled products such as alcohol and tobacco in our businesses. The government isn’t going to eliminate organized crime in the cannabis sector by opening 100 retail locations.”

At stake is the battle between the province’s inclination to over-regulate and use the same model for cannabis as they do with hard liquor. This is the familiar LCBO-type approach in Ontario. On the other side is the very powerful ADA and its stakeholders.  The ADA has the lobbying muscles to make itself heard.

Another factor is that Couche-Tard is a Quebec success story. These Quebecois companies are source of pride for the government and their position has an outsized influence in the debate.

Everyone knows there’s a lot at stake, Deloitte’s finding a legal Canadian marijuana industry could be worth nearly $22 Billion is mentioned as well as a quote from Sylvain Charlebois at Dalhousie University (Translation Mine):

“Cannabis represents a small gold mine for food-retail businesses across the country.”

Couche-Tard knows it, the snack-food floggers know it and the government knows it. The $22 Billion dollar question is who swings the biggest lobbying and policy stick.

Having been born and raised in Montreal it has a certain vibe to it. The kind of vibe where adding a pack of kush 100s to the wine, lotto scratchers and smokes fits right in. The long tradition of corner alcohol sales means the provincial government will have a harder time arguing against private distribution than in other jurisdictions like Ontario.

If I was a betting man, I’d likely come down on the side of government reserving the tasty profits for its monopoly. It’s not a done deal yet, but as time ticks on, decisions will need to be made, and folks who guess right will make a lot of money.

Quebec update is our semi-regular review of French-language news and business intelligence, translated and summarized for your pleasure.

Written By:

Stephan Herman

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