Quebec should embrace cannabis to promote the economy

The CAQ’s anti-pot stance is sure to hurt consumers and citizens in Quebec.

The new Quebec premier Francois Legault of the Coalition Avenir Quebec says he wants to put more money in the pockets of Quebecers.

And now that the CAQ has the mandate of a majority government, his words will soon turn into actions.

Legault and the CAQ have already declared they want more of a role for the private sector in health care and want to eliminate bureaucracy. Added to that, they want to cut taxes across the board.

In addition, the CAQ has put the Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) on notice, saying that the state agency “profits from its monopoly status to take advantage of consumers,” and the time has come to privatize it.

Each of these proposals represent historical opportunities for consumers and entrepreneurs.

But when it comes to cannabis, which was legalized on Wednesday nationwide, the CAQ is wrong. Their anti-pot stance is sure to hurt consumers and citizens in Quebec.

The Most Restrictive Laws

As the Globe and Mail detailed last week, Quebec will have the most restrictive laws in the country when cannabis is legalized.

In the cannabis regulations passed by the previous Quebec Liberal Party, consumers in Quebec will be banned from growing the plant at home, and will only have 25 stores to choose from across the province, including just four in Montreal. Even more, prices will be fixed by the new SQDC and customers will only be allowed to have 150 grams of dried cannabis at home. Ontario, on the other hand, will open up 40 stores by July 2019, allowing consumers to buy online in the meantime. In Saskatchewan, up to 60 permits will be handed out to private retailers. Manibota is the only other province to ban home growing.

The CAQ voted against the Liberals’ provincial plan in June and have indicatedthey want even more regulations, including a ban on public consumption and an age limit of 21 years old.

For Legault and the CAQ, the “commodification” of cannabis is a bad idea that Quebec has been forced to accept.

That said, will the CAQ’s sour opinion on cannabis ensure Quebec is left behind in the green economic boom?

An economy both green and strong

In 2019, the cannabis market is expected to reach $1 billion, representing a fourth of the national total.

That represents not only millions in additional revenue for the province via taxes, but also an invitation to innovation for hundreds of entrepreneurs and innovators who will respond to the new demand of the population. That’ll mean more investment and more jobs across the economy. Cannabis stores will need goods and services they’ll receive from the market, and all businesses around them will benefit. It’s a win-win scenario.

As such, it’s a reality that will only come to fruition if we have a government that offers us simple, effective laws that prove conducive to the new market of cannabis.

The problem with a restrictive cannabis law regime is simple: the more restrictive it is, the more likely consumers are to stay in the black market to acquire the product. According to Deloitte, only 47 percent of Quebecers have the intention of even using the legal cannabis market. The majority will still in the black market, far from government’s regulations and taxing authority.

Is that the CAQ’s grand plan? We hope not.

The legalization of cannabis in Canada is a historic occasion to demonstrate our capacity to be an innovative, smart, and entrepreneurial country with sound and effective public policies.

That’s the economic message the CAQ wanted to send voters at the last election. If they want to continue flying that flag, they’re going to have to open up to the wonders of cannabis.

Yaël Ossowski is an economic journalist and deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center.

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About Yaël Ossowski

Yaël Ossowski is a journalist, activist, and writer. He's currently deputy director at the Consumer Choice Center, and senior development officer for Students For Liberty. He was previously a national investigative reporter and chief Spanish translator at Watchdog.org, and worked at newspapers and television stations across the country. He received a Master’s Degree in Philosophy, Politics, Economics (PPE) at the CEVRO Institute in Prague. Born in Québec and raised in the southern United States, he currently lives in Vienna, Austria.