CUPE-Quebec has learned that the Quebec government is preparing to table a bill to establish a “non‑commercial subsidiary of the SAQ” but remains concerned as to the government’s true intentions. One highly worrisome aspect of today’s news is the announcement that “external agents for the distribution and possibly also the marketing of cannabis” could be invited to work with the new government corporation, thereby opening the door to privatization. CUPE reminds the government that it will fight diligently against the government initiative if the new bill gives away all or any part of cannabis distribution to the private sector.
“Today’s news leads us to hope that the government will go in the right direction, but we remain on guard,” stated CUPE 3535 president Patrick Lessard. “Even partial privatization of the cannabis distribution network would be a serious mistake.”
CUPE 3535 representing SAQ employees has been asking to have the government corporation made responsible for cannabis distribution since the federal government rolled out its bill to legalize marijuana.
During the public consultation on the legal framework governing marijuana this past September, CUPE‑Québec had submitted a report in which it requested that the SAQ be made responsible for cannabis distribution by establishing a non-profit division under the Ministère de la Santé.
Based on information published this morning in La Presse, CUPE-Québec’s recommendations appear to have been adopted in part insofar as the government has announced that the SAQ will create a subsidiary that will indeed be non-profit.
However, contrary to the recommendations of multiple experts, the new division will fall under the authority of the minister of Finance rather than the minister of Health and Social Services. CUPE seeks to point out the importance of allocating any surplus revenue solely toward prevention and awareness initiatives rather than filling the government coffers.