Convenience Stores Key to the Successful Legalization of Cannabis

News Articles

Convenience Stores Key to the Successful Legalization of Cannabis

Posted on Thursday 10/19/17

In July 2018, the federal government will legalize the production and distribution of cannabis. Between now and then, the provinces and territories will have to decide how to adapt to this legislation.

Whether or not one agrees with legalization, everyone can agree that when it happens, the systems that the provinces put in place should promote the goals of legalization that, if realized, will be positive. The federal government aims to move cannabis from the illegal market into a regulated system in which products can be taxed and where quality standards and controls protect citizens.

At least three things will be necessary to realize these goals. First, the price of legal products can’t be too high or illegal markets will persist. Second, legal products need to be readily identifiable. Branded packaging will make them harder to counterfeit while providing the public with a guarantee of product standards of quality and safety.

Finally, there needs to be a convenient distribution system for legal products. Think about it. If prohibition is ended for consumers, but the options to legally purchase products are too limited, a boom in the supply of illegal products through the underground market will follow. Today, it’s easy to buy cannabis. If it is too hard to buy from legal sellers tomorrow, people will just continue to buy it elsewhere.

Right now, the provinces and territories are considering a number of options. For example, some suggest that government-owned retail sites are the best choice while others want to see small businesses (including convenience stores) participating in the legal sale of cannabis.

The WCSA supports the view that if individual convenience stores wish to offer this new product category, they should have the same opportunity as any other retail business. The only sensible option is a level playing field that does not favour one type of business over others.

To be clear, when we think of selling cannabis products in convenience stores we are thinking about the sale of pre-packaged, standardized products. Existing producers of medicinal cannabis are already working to develop carefully branded recreational products containing consumer information to protect public safety.

Convenience stores are served by a distribution system that supports the legal sale of a variety of controlled goods and are well-positioned to adapt to include distribution of cannabis products as well. The stringent controls already in place to secure the collection of provincial and federal taxes on such products can accommodate any new products requiring similar controls.

Moreover, convenience store employees are not simply cashiers or gas attendants. Their tasks are varied, complex and demand a high degree of accountability for compliance with government regulations regarding responsible retailing, health and safety, food and beverage preparation, and environmental protection. Convenience stores are well-prepared to handle the variety of quality-controlled products that will soon be entering the legal market and Health Canada studies confirm the strength of their commitment to age-testing.

The conditions for a successful legal market are in place. Those conditions include convenience stores. It’s up to provincial governments to ensure these conditions prevail.