Pubdate: Tue, 19 Sep 2017
Source: Montreal Gazette (CN QU)
Copyright: 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Andy Riga
Page: A5


Forget the private sector and the Societe des alcools du Quebec. A
Montreal think-tank says the government department that oversees
hospitals should manage pot sales.

To generate bigger profits, private vendors would target young people,
increase marijuana potency and press governments to relax pot laws, as
seen in Colorado and Washington, the Institut de recherche et
d'informations socioeconomiques (IRIS) says in a study published Tuesday.

And opting for stores run by the liquor-store monopoly could open the
door to alcohol and marijuana (a dangerous combination, they say)
being sold side by side, and to pressure from the SAQ's only
shareholder - Quebec's finance department - to boost profits without
regard to detrimental health effects, the study says.

Unlike a private company, a government body would sell quality
products at good prices, limit points of sale, prevent young people
from buying, help fight the black market and adequately train store
personnel, study author Philippe Hurteau, a researcher at the
non-profit think-tank, said in an interview.

Some fear a pot division of the SAQ would become a cash cow, with the
finance department squeezing it for more money to help erase deficits
or to finance tax cuts, Hurteau said.

"A simple solution would be for the Crown corporation to be under the
control of the Health Department, with all profits going to prevention
campaigns and education on healthy consumption habits, as well as to
pay for the social and health costs generated by cannabis."

The new study comes 10 months after another IRIS study - about the
economic impact of legalized marijuana - backed the idea of the SAQ
selling pot via a stand-alone chain of stores that does not sell alcohol.

Both the previous study and the new one were partially funded by the
union that represents SAQ workers.

Hurteau said the second study was influenced by recommendations by
Quebec public health officials, who have urged the province not to use
the SAQ as a model because the liquor-store monopoly is expected to
turn a profit.

The federal government has laid out a framework for legalizing
marijuana by July 1, 2018, but provinces must decide how it will be
distributed and sold.

In Ontario, the only province to announce detailed plans, a
government-run body - the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, which
operates liquor stores - will oversee retail sales in separate pot
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