Quebec’s government-owned recreational cannabis retailer is planning to roll out a delivery network for its product in the hope of countering the illicit market for marijuana.

The Société Québécoise du Cannabis (SQDC), which has a legislated monopoly on recreational cannabis sales in the province of Quebec, will soon launch a pilot delivery service in Montreal instead of using Canada Post.

“We have the mandate to migrate the black market to the legal market,” said SQDC spokesperson Fabrice Giguère.

Customers can expect their product to arrive within 24 hours, rather than the several days they usually have to wait through the normal postal system. Customers typically pay around $5 for the current delivery service.

Unlike other provinces in Canada, which took a lax approach to unlicensed dispensaries opening prior to recreational marijuana legalization, law enforcement in Quebec quickly shut down illicit cannabis retailers.

As a result, marijuana businesses increasingly decided to sell their product illicitly through delivery services, which are much harder to trace and crack down on.

SQDC has found it hard to compete with the speed of illicit cannabis delivery services, given that the number of stores selling marijuana on premises throughout Quebec is still quite limited.

“If the delivery takes two or three days, that will never accomplish competition with the illicit market,” said Jean-Sébastien Fallu, a professor from the School of Psycho-Education at the Université de Montréal.

The black market issue in Canada is not limited to Quebec, nor just to the provision of speedier delivery services. Cannabis consumers in Canada say that black market weed is also often of a better quality, more plentiful supply and at a cheaper cost.

The pilot project in Montreal will run from six to nine months. In the meantime, the SQDC has issued a call for tenders to determine whether such a service is viable at scale.

For now, the pilot project will be limited to the island of Montreal, since this is where the SQDC’s shipping center is located. From here, delivery workers will pick up placed orders and take them to the customer. If all goes smoothly, and the pilot project looks to be a success, then the SQDC intend to extend the service to the suburbs of South Shore and Laval.

The SQDC tender seeks service providers capable of delivering all products by 10:00pm on the same day the order was placed. The tenders also asks that the delivery service provider has the capacity to provide a faster option – within one hour of a placed order – for customers in certain areas.

The Minister of Health and Social Services, Lionel Carmant, is not renowned for his support of marijuana reform initiatives, but he has thrown his weight behind SQDC’s proposal, while emphasizing the need to ensure cannabis is not sold to any persons under the age of 21.

Fabrice Giguère said that all customers must present ID to make sure they are old enough, but other aspects of the delivery service, such as the cost, remain unclear.

“We don’t know the exact mechanics yet. We obviously want to keep the cost as low as possible for the client,” Giguère said.

“This is a process and this is why we want to give ourselves the time to do our due diligence with it and make sure that everything pans out as we planned.”

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