Only in Quebec could we bungle legal weed this badly.
The Société québécoise du cannabis (SQDC) is now considering closing stores because they can’t seem to keep their shelves stocked (UPDATE: The SQDC announced that they will be closing all stores on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays until further notice). You read that right, their solution to skyrocketing demand is to close stores, not get more product to meet it
This is an industry that has reaped millions in revenues for state governments in the US, money that can be used to fix roads, invest in new infrastructure projects and do better at providing essential services. And that was just through taxing sales, not even the governments selling the product themselves.
Here, it’s a government monopoly, which is something we’re pretty good at. You won’t catch the SQDC’s parent company the Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) running out of whiskey, let alone all hard alcohol, in any of their many (much more than the SQDC) stores.
So did those tasked with setting up and running the SQDC actually think pot was a niche product only enjoyed by a handful, albeit a significant handful, of the population? Did they not realize that once the legal restrictions were lifted, it would rival alcohol sales or come close to it?
Well, maybe, but only if they were so much in their bubble that they limited their market research to data on people who didn’t mind telling a stranger that they enjoyed a product that was at the time illegal. Looking at the data from other places that legalized the plant would have been much more, um, logical.
If they weren’t completely out of touch, though, they would have anticipated that their planned rollout would not meet the demand. So, if that’s the case, either they just couldn’t get a proper operation up in time for legalization or they wanted to not be able to deliver.
If it’s the former, then, geez, c’mon guys, you had a few years to prepare for this. Does everything in this province have to operate at the efficiency of a construction project?
If it’s the latter, then why? Is it a moral thing? If so, then I’d like to point out that the Quebec Government actively promotes and profits from booze and gambling.
It can’t be that they want to help out your friendly neighbourhood dealer. If that was the case, they would have made it possible for people to apply for licenses to sell weed legally, thus eliminating by legalizing much of the so-called black market.
Could it be that they wanted legal cannabis to be difficult to get so people would seek other options and police would be able to continue to arrest and/or fine people (predominately marginalized people and people of colour) for selling what is now a legal substance also sold by the government? Nah, that’s just some wild conspiracy theory with a 90% chance of being true.
So, moving forward, the SQDC and the Quebec Government have two choices:
Open the Market
They could let people apply for licenses to sell weed and cannabis products, either through storefronts, with delivery or both. They wouldn’t have to close the SQDC, or even change it that much.
Government pot stores would be specialized the same way you can get beer and wine at every dep, but some brands only at the SAQ. The government would, of course, tax all sales.
Keep the Monopoly But Do It Right
First, make the supply overshoot the demand. I’m talking about more stores and more suppliers, in fact all the suppliers possible, provided they produce a quality product.
Then, it’s time to market. Yes, I know that marketing cannabis, or even selling t-shirts with the pot leaf on it, is now banned in Quebec, but that doesn’t help anyone. Why monopolize an industry if you don’t want it to thrive.
You’re a pot dealer now, Quebec, start acting like it! Hang photos of buds in the stores and let people smell the product…in the SAQ you can even taste-test wine. Have a points card and sell shopping bags with the pot leaf on it made of, wait for it…hemp! (You can have that idea for free, SQDC)
I do not write this as a pot smoker. In fact I don’t smoke weed. I write this instead as someone who never wants to hear a provincial politician say “How are we going to pay for that?” when an idea like free post-secondary education or a new metro line is floated.
It could be like living in a petro-state, except instead of reaping the benefits of the destruction of the planet’s climate, we’d be reaping, and hopefully redistributing, the benefits of selling a product probably less damaging to society than alcohol, which has been legal for decades.
Pot is legal here. Time for Quebec to embrace that fact rather than being embarrassed by it and embarrass us as a result. At the very least, we should acknowledge that closing stores is not how you handle too much demand.
* Featured Image via YouTube screengrab