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Couche-Tard says it still wants to sell marijuana in its Quebec convenience stores

Last Updated Sep 20, 2017 at 11:00 am EST

A man passes by a Couche Tard convenience store in Montreal, on October 5, 2012. Alimentation Couche-Tard is still interested in selling marijuana and its co-founder says he thinks provincial governments should stay out of selling this product. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes.

LAVAL, Que. – Alimentation Couche-Tard is still interested in selling marijuana and its co-founder says he thinks provincial governments should stay out of selling this product.

Alain Bouchard, the executive chairman of the Quebec-based chain of convenience stores, says Crown corporations getting involved in cannabis sales is a step backwards after it becomes legal next year.

Couche-Tard would like to sell cannabis in some of the more than 2,000 stores it operates in Canada.

The Quebec government is still weighing how the product will be sold in the province as the federal government has committed to legalizing marijuana as of July 2018.

For the moment, some provinces are in favour of overseeing the sale of cannabis.

The Ontario government announced earlier this month its plan to open 150 dedicated marijuana stores run by the province’s liquor control board, but Quebec hasn’t decided on private sector involvement.

New Brunswick has also announced a Crown corporation will also be created to oversee the sale of cannabis.

Couche-Tard (TSX:ATD.B) even hired a lobbyist to work on ensuring it is involved in the cannabis-distribution system Quebec will eventually set up, but Bouchard says the provincial government has given the company the cold shoulder.

“They do not even want to talk to us, so I think it is a shame,” Bouchard told The Canadian Press on Tuesday on the sidelines of the multinational company’s annual meeting in Laval.

“We have the ability to sell this product while meeting all government requirements (and) we can train our staff on verifying the identity of all consumers, regardless of their age.”

The businessman said employees of the company’s convenience stores were already selling lottery tickets, beer and tobacco.

Bouchard, known for his strong opposition towards government incursions into the retail sector, has repeatedly criticized the Quebec Liquor Corp. for its monopoly in the past.

“I think it is a step backwards when we turn to crown corporations to sell a product that we have decided to legalize,” Bouchard said.