Legalized marijuana is going to happen in Canada. This is a reality no one can deny, no matter how you feel about legalizing cannabis in this country, it's really just a matter of exactly when and how.
Several different models for the control and sale of marijuana could be created within Canada when weed is legalized, with the state of Colorado's existing system likely being the main inspiration.
But while the Colorado model does allow for plenty of personal liberties when it comes to buying, growing, and smoking marijuana, I believe the system can be improved in Canada, and especially within Quebec.
I posit that when marijuana is legalized in Canada, the SAQ should begin selling recreational marijuana to anyone over the age of 18.
Before you decry my position, note that the sale of marijuana within a provincially-controlled liquor store isn't an original idea. Leaders in British Columbia are already striving to implement this exact system.
The B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union as well as the province's private liquor stores, have publicly joined forces, stating their intent and desire to have non-medical cannabis sold where liquor can be purchased.
During a press conference held yesterday, the leaders of both organizations outlined the benefits of adopting this system, which are quite numerous.
Damian Kettlewell, representative for B.C's Private Liquor Store Association, argues that a government controlled liquor store already has a wealth of experience monitoring the sale of legal substances "in the most socially responsible manner and age-controlled environment with the strongest track record of checking identification."
The same can be said in Quebec, where the SAQ has controlled the sale of hard liquor since 1921. In truth, the SAQ is the only organization with the adequate skills and experience to sell marijuana products in the province.
And Quebec would save money, too. Rather than create a brand new government body to control cannabis sales, by having the SAQ sell recreational marijuana, the province would save time and money, not needing to install an entirely new system.
Money will also be gained via the taxation of marijuana sold in the SAQ. Funds accrued through tax revenues could then go on to help finance worthwhile projects like free health care, as is the plan in B.C.
Now, many may believe that no government-controlled marijuana vendor will be set up when Canada legalizes marijuana, which is far from likely.
Think about it. The main reason why the Canadian government (or any government) would want to make a substance legal is to control the sale of said substance, and apply a tax which would provide a new source of income.
We already do it with cigarettes and alcohol. Marijuana will be no different.
Note, that in the B.C. plan, and the one I propose for Quebec, only recreational marijuana would be sold in liquor stores. Those who have a particular illness that requires medical marijuana treatments should be able to acquire their medicine through another resource, ideally one that is taxed less, if not at all.
And while the benefits of having the SAQ adopt the responsibility of selling weed are numerous on a financial and logistical level, it's also just super convenient for you and me, the average Montrealer.
Just think how amazingly advantageous it would be to be able to buy your weekend's supply of alcohol and marijuana in one single spot, without the need to contact a sketchy drug dealer or some similarly shady character.
Of course, there will be naysayers if this system is adopted, arguing that having marijuana sold in the SAQ would increase the likelihood of citizens becoming addicted along with increasing access to minors.
But couldn't you say the same of alcohol?
And if anything, SAQ-controlled marijuana sales would deter the access minors have to marijuana, as existing drug dealers will be slowly pushed out in favour of the government-controlled system. That's definitely a best case scenario, but a likely possibility nonetheless.
So when Canada legalizes marijuana, Quebec need only look to one organization when creating a system within the province, the SAQ.