Photo Flickr / Valentina SolitoThe Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) is proposing that the responsibility for purchasing, distributing and even selling legalized marijuana in Quebec go to a government corporation.

CUPE suggests giving this responsibility to the Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ), which already has the expertise, labour, facilities and equipment to do the job. The SAQ could open designated branches in order to keep sales of marijuana and alcohol entirely separate.

CUPE will be submitting its report to minister Lucie Charlebois when the current consultation on cannabis regulation comes to Montréal on September 8.

CUPE’s reflection takes into account the public health objectives established by the government of Quebec. The probability of achieving these objectives increases if a government corporation assumes control over the distribution of cannabis and its by‑products.

“The SAQ has many years of experience in the distribution and sale of alcohol in accordance with the law and public health guidelines,” stated CUPE-Quebec president Denis Bolduc. “It would be easy for the corporation to implement the same strict processes for cannabis in its various forms.”

The 850 workers at SAQ distribution centres currently handle 8,500 maritime containers and 3,000 truck trailers annually to deliver alcohol to points of sale across the province. They could quickly adapt this network to the distribution of cannabis.

CUPE proposes first creating a separate department within the SAQ dedicated to cannabis distribution under the authority of the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux (MSSS).

Surplus income generated by this department could be rolled back into the education and prevention fund that the government is seeking to establish.

When it comes to the retail sale of marijuana, CUPE advises against making use of non-profit organizations (NPOs) as some stakeholders are recommending. These NPOs might be tempted to begin competing with one another to increase sales, which would promote the consumption of cannabis to the detriment of public health.

“There is nothing preventing the SAQ from creating a department with a different name and an independent board of directors reporting to the MSSS,” says the CUPE report, which can be viewed here (in French only).

With nearly 115,000 members, CUPE-Quebec represents approximately 3,800 employees of Quebec government corporations and public agencies. CUPE is also active across a broad range of sectors, including health and social services, communications, education, universities, energy, municipalities, air and ground transportation, the mixed sector and the maritime sector. It is the largest FTQ-affiliated union.