6 cannabis growers to provide 62 tonnes of pot to Quebec's legal recreational market
Only Quebec-based company to clinch deal is Gatineau's Hydropothecary, which will supply 20 tonnes
Quebec's bill to legalize recreational cannabis has yet to pass in Quebec City, and the federal legislation is still stuck in the Senate, but the province has already signed tentative deals with suppliers — including five based outside the province.
Six companies that already have federal licences to grow marijuana announced Wednesday that they have signed letters of intent to provide Quebec with cannabis once the products are legal for recreational use.
"We've got to move," said Public Health Minister Lucie Charlebois. "We've got to be ready when it's going to be legal."
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The tentative agreements were inked with the government-owned alcohol retailer, the SAQ, because the subsidiary that is supposed to handle the sale of legalized marijuana, the Société québécoise du cannabis (SQC), does not yet exist as a legal entity.
Bill 157, which would create it, still hasn't passed into law. That will have to happen before the SQC can transform the letters of intent into formal contracts.
Plants, sprays, powders
Gatineau's Hydropothecary, the only Quebec supplier on the list, has obtained the largest deal.
It has agreed to provide the province with 20,000 kilograms of cannabis products, including plants, sprays and powders, in the first year.
Two other producers, Canopy Growth, based in Smith Falls, Ont., and Edmonton's Aurora Cannabis, have operations in Valleyfield, Mirabel and Saint Lucien, Que.
They have agreed to provide at least 12,000 kilograms and 5,000 kilograms, respectively.
Canopy Growth also has deals with New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador.
Wednesday's news came just before the company announced it had made $21.7 million in the third quarter of 2017-18, more than double its revenue in the third quarter last year.
The other three companies are MedReleaf from Markham, Ont., Tilray from Nanaimo, B.C., and Aphria from Leamington, Ont.
Opposition calls for more local growers
The Quebec government has come under fire from opposition politicians and Quebec producers who say the government has not done enough to help local businesses crack into the federally controlled cannabis production industry.
However, Finance Minister Carlos Leitão defended the tentative contracts, pointing out more than half of the 62,000 kilograms on order involve companies with Quebec connections.
"We can say that, massively, these letters of intention cover Quebec producers," he said.
Hydropothecary is in the midst of an expansion and will eventually ramp up its production capacity to 108,000 kilograms of dried cannabis a year.
Its CEO and co-founder, Sebastien St-Louis, said the news is a "significant breakthrough," He said the company will still produce medical marijuana products.
The news comes the same week as Ottawa-based Shopify announced a deal with the Ontario government to manage online cannabis sales and run in-store software for cannabis outlets.
With files from Andrew Foote