A report commissioned by federal weed regulator Health Canada found Canadian demand for legal cannabis will be much higher than expected, as the Ottawa Citizen's Jacquie Miller reported earlier this week.
The Leaf News got a look at the report, and one number in particular caught our attention: projected demand for cannabis in Canada's second-most populous province looks relatively low.
Quebec's 2018 demand for cannabis will be 103 tonnes, according to the report by consultants Marijuana Policy Group. That's plenty of weed for roughly 8.2 million Quebecers, to be sure, but by comparison, Atlantic Canada (four provinces with a combined population of just 2.3 million people) is expected to use 82 tonnes of weed in 2018, or about 80 per cent of Quebec's consumption.
The MPG report is built off data in the federal government's 2017 Canadian Cannabis Survey, which also suggests cannabis is less popular in Quebec than elsewhere in Canada. That survey found 21.7 per cent of all Canadians aged 16 and up reported using cannabis in the past 12 months, compared to 17.6 per cent of Quebecers.
Anti-cannabis attitudes are definitely strong in Quebec, according to native Quebecer Philippe Depault. He heads Hiku's Maïtri cannabis brand, which will be marketed to French-Canadians after legalization.
"There is a huge stigmatization around cannabis in Quebec, it is definitely a problem. And what I observe is, there is also a strong portion of the population in Quebec that is against cannabis, and they are very talkative. They speak a lot. When you hear a debate on the radio about cannabis... because of the stigmatization, these people tend to have a bigger voice."
But Depault isn't convinced that will actually translate into low demand for cannabis in Quebec after legalization.
"I believe Quebec is actually one of the largest cannabis consumer markets in Canada, with Ontario and B.C.," he says.
Survey numbers don't reflect that, Depault believes, because Quebec's stigma against cannabis makes Quebecers less likely to admit their use in government surveys. Depault cites the example of Cannabis Culture, which opened a number of short-lived illicit cannabis dispensaries in Montreal in 2016.
"There was close to a six-hour lineup in front of each of these stores, and they were illegal, and people knew they were illegal."
Depault expects legal cannabis stores in Quebec to be just as popular after Quebecers get accustomed to the legal regime.
Adam Greenblatt co-founded the Santé Cannabis clinic in Montreal and previously worked as the Quebec brand manager for Canopy Growth Corporation. (Now he works for Canopy in B.C.) Like Depault, he's skeptical of the idea that Quebec will want relatively less cannabis than other Canadian provinces.
"I know that there are a lot of people who use cannabis (in Quebec), I think they're more discreet about it, I think they're reluctant to talk about it on a survey," says Greenblatt.
"And I also know that cannabis growing, and the underground market in Quebec, is just as flourishing and massive as it is in other provinces, which is just another factor that makes me very skeptical when I read about low consumption rates in Quebec."
Like Depault, Greenblatt also feels Quebec media tends to present cannabis in a more "sensationalist" light than Canadian media as a whole.
"It's possible that there's relatively less cannabis consumption in Quebec than elsewhere, but certainly it is not the case in urban centres in Quebec," adds Greenblatt.
"I would say in urban centres, it is on par with Toronto and Vancouver in terms of how frequently you're going to smell weed on the street corner, and how openly it is sold and consumed, and just casually around."
At the very least, we should soon have a better idea of whether Quebecers are truly less fond of weed than other Canadians. Legal cannabis sales numbers ought to be a much more reliable measure of cannabis consumption than self-reported survey data, in Quebec and everywhere else.
New on The Leaf
- "Have you ever smoked marijuana?": Giving the wrong answer to that dreaded question from U.S. customs officials can leave Canadians locked out of America. Read our in-depth feature on cannabis at the Canada-U.S. border.
- The Young and the Restless: Meet 23-year-old Cierra Sieben-Chuback, likely the youngest owner of a legal cannabis store in Canada. (She's restless because she's getting ready for legalization, obviously.)
- Herb gets into HR: Can a hiring manager ask interviewees whether they use cannabis? Yes. Is it a good idea? That's another question entirely.
Elsewhere on the Weed Wide Web
- Sinsemilla in the service: Canada's Department of National Defence has laid out the rules for cannabis use in the military.
- 'Cannabis overdose' sensationalism marches on: A medical expert educates CTV News on the signs of a cannabis overdose, no doubt scaring the heck out of its audience.
- Cannabis beyond Canada: Can Canada's cannabis industry go international?