LAVAL, Quebec – One of the world’s largest convenience-store chains appears to be jockeying for a spot in the recreational-marijuana supply chain, according to a Canadian Press report. If the initiative is allowed to move forward, the retailer could even set up stores under a new brand for the purpose of selling the controversial product, CSP Daily News has learned.
Lawmakers have signaled the potential for legalized marijuana sales across Canada by July 1, 2018, and the parent company of the Circle K brand of convenience stores, Laval, Quebec-based Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc., has hired a lobbyist to represent its interest in retail-marijuana sales, the report said.
The news agency said that Couche-Tard hired the Montreal-based PR firm Tact Intelligence-conseil. One of its directors, Marie-Eve Bedard, was once a chief of staff within the Quebec health minister’s office and was named in documents tied to Canada’s marijuana legislation.
Her goal is to communicate a “willingness” on the part of Couche-Tard to be a part of a sales model established for marijuana in Quebec, the news agency reported. The hope is to ensure that its c-stores become a part of the province’s distribution plan, said the report.
With about 10,000 stores globally, Couche-Tard operates about 2,000 in Canada, and could potentially be the first c-store chain to take advantage of the growing popularity of legalized recreational-marijuana sales in North America.
In a statement provided to CSP Daily News, the company said, "Couche-Tard Alimentation Couche-Tard wishes to comply with the Lobbying Act. All our lobbying activities are registered in the Registry, in compliance with the law. As written in the mandate, we have offered our collaboration to the government of Quebec in the thought process it has undertaken. We wish to let the government know we are willing to be part of the cannabis sales model that will be selected. We are convinced we can be an ideal partner in the implementation of a sales model responsible towards the citizens."
The company could establish a new brand to sell marijuana. "Alimentation Couche-Tard is aware of the issues relating to 'co-location' of cannabis sales with alcohol and tobacco," it said. "That is why we are considering creating a separate banner for the distribution of cannabis and online sales. We have longstanding experience in the sale of tobacco and alcohol, of products prohibited to minors, and of products raising public health concerns. We are convinced that the excellent reputation and status of Alimentation Couche-Tard will help reassure the citizens who are concerned with the impacts of legalizing cannabis."
As of July 17, 2016, Couche-Tard’s network includes 7,863 stores throughout North America in 15 business units—11 in the United States covering 41 states and four in Canada covering all 10 provinces—as well as 2,708 stores in a retail network across Scandinavia, Ireland, Poland, the Baltic States and Russia through 10 business units.