Quebec cannabis report shows 70% of purchases now at least partially from legal market

| Staff

Quebec’s Ministry of Health and Social Services released a report today on the progress of cannabis legalization in the province.  

The report concludes that Quebec’s public health and safety approach to legalization has been successful in preventing young people from using cannabis while encouraging adults to migrate from the illicit to licit market.

According to the report, some 70% of cannabis sales in the province are now at least partially from the legal market for sales through the SQDC, Quebec’s cannabis distributor and retailer.  This is above the current estimated national average from Statistics Canada—showing a little over 50% market share on average across Canada.

This figure for Quebec is up from 45% of people who have purchased cannabis from the SQDC during this period in 2019. The number of illegal suppliers in the province also declined, says the report. 

Revenue from legal sales of cannabis through the SQDC have gone to two different provincial funds, the Revenue Fund from the sale of cannabis and the Prevention and Research Fund for cannabis (FPRMC). Since the creation of FPRMC in 2018, nearly $57 million has been invested in initiatives intended to support the FPRMC.

Although overall consumption rates for adults in Quebec have increased since legalization, rising from 14% in 2018 and 16% in 2019 to 20% in 2021, use among young people has decreased.

Reported consumption trends among high school aged Quebecers who tried cannabis in the past 12 months decreased by 6%, as did those students who reported using cannabis often (from 8% in 2013 to 5% in 2019).

Quebec has the highest legal age of access for cannabis in Canada at 21. Most provinces are 19. The federal limit is 18. All sales of cannabis in the province are through the provincial cannabis stores, the SQDC. There are currently 56 provincial stores plus the online SQDC portal.

Evolution of the prevalence of cannabis use over the past 12 months among high school youth in Quebec from 2000 to 2019.

“I am very happy to note that the preventive measures adopted within the framework of this law, as well as those that we have deployed to regulate the legal use and sale of cannabis, have borne fruit,” said Lionel Carmant, Minister for Health and Social Services in a press release.

Carmant does urge caution, though, with consumption trends reportedly increasing due to covid, a trend the province says they are keeping an eye on. Consumption rates of cannabis across Canada have reportedly increased since covid restrictions came into place in March 2020.

The report also notes concern with violation of provincial and federal marketing regulations, namely through social media platforms that it has limited capacity to monitor.

From 2018-2021, there were more than 3,000 instances of inspectors looking into such promotion or marketing violations but only 185 violations noted, a compliance rate of around 98%.

Quebec’s Directeur des poursuites criminelles et pénales (DCPC) is responsible for prosecutions relating to violations of the provincial cannabis act. The agencies main focus has been related to possession for those under the age of 21 and personal cultivation, which is not allowed in Quebec. Since legalization, 787 guilty pleas have been entered for these types of violations.