Alimentation Couche-Tard wants to sell cannabis

MONTREAL — If Quebec’s biggest chain of convenience stores has its way, customers will eventually be able to buy cannabis along with their chips, beer and cigarettes.

Alimentation Couche-Tard has hired a lobbyist to work on ensuring it is involved in the cannabis-distribution system Quebec will eventually set up.

The province’s official registry of lobbyists shows Marie-Eve Bedard has been authorized to work on behalf of Couche-Tard (TSX:ATD.B) and can continue doing so until next May.

Bedard, a former chief of staff to ex-Quebec health minister Yves Bolduc, has disclosed she will earn less than $10,000 for her work.

Couche-Tard operates more than 2,000 stores in Canada but it is not clear whether it wants to sell cannabis outside of Quebec.

A spokeswoman for the chain did not want to be interviewed Tuesday but said in an email the company would be an “ideal partner in implementing a responsible sales model for citizens.”

“Alimentation Couche-Tard has a long history of selling tobacco and alcohol, products that minors are prohibited from buying and that raise public-health issues,” said Marie-Noelle Cano.

In April, the federal government introduced legislation proposing that Canadians 18 and older be allowed to buy and cultivate small amounts of marijuana for personal use as of next summer.

The bill has not yet become law.

The government says it will help keep the drug out of the hands of young people while denying profits to criminal organizations.

The Quebec government has announced the province will begin a series of consultations this month as it prepares to introduce its own cannabis-related legislation this fall.

Public Health Minister Lucie Charlebois said earlier this month everything will be on the table, adding the province is not starting with any preconceived ideas.

But Charlebois indicated she shares Finance Minister Carlos Leitao’s view marijuana should not be distributed at Quebec Liquor Corp. outlets.

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