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Cannabis products are seen on the shelves at a new Societe Quebecoise du Cannabis (SQDC) store during a media preview, Tuesday, October 16, 2018 in Montreal. The legal sale of cannabis begins in Canada on Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan RemiorzRyan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

Part of Cannabis and consumers

Quebeckers who shop for legal cannabis starting Wednesday can expect outlets that look like a cross between a pharmacy and a health-food store, with prices for pot starting as low as $5.25 a gram.

Officials with Quebec’s state-run Société québécoise du cannabis (SQDC) offered a sneak peek into one of the shops on Tuesday. The officials said their mission is clear: Employees will be there to educate customers, not sell the merits of its products.

The SQDC will start with 12 outlets across the province offering a range of 110 products. That number is expected to increase to 180 products in the coming weeks.

“What the (SQDC) won’t do is the promotion of cannabis. It won’t do marketing,” said Alain Brunet, president of the SQDC. Its role is public education, he told reporters.

Mr. Brunet referred to Wednesday’s rollout as a historic day as Canada becomes the first G7 nation to legalize cannabis “from coast to coast.”

Canada’s launch is drawing world attention. The SQDC press event was covered by media including German public television and a Fox News team from New York.

As far as location, the cannabis shop shown to reporters on Tuesday is on St. Hubert Street, a busy retail strip known for its many bridal shops. It offers a typically Montreal setting – the street is completely torn up, under construction and closed to traffic.

The cannabis for sale inside is not visible from the street. Customers have to enter through a vestibule where their ID will be checked before they can access the store. Quebec’s minimum consumption age is 18, but the new Coalition Avenir Québec government wants to increase the age to 21.

The products are neatly lined on shelves or shown beneath glass showcases, and labelled with bright yellow health warnings such as “Cannabis can be addictive” and “Do not use if pregnant or breastfeeding.”

Information on the gamut of products will be available on interactive screens. Products include dried flower, ground cannabis, and pre-rolled, as well as oils, oral sprays, pills or gel caps. They all come in sealed packages.

Quebec outlets don’t sell seeds because the province has banned home-growing of pot.

Authorities described prices as competitive – Quebec’s are the lowest in the country – and are expected to eat into a portion of the black market. Online sales also launch on Wednesday and orders are anticipated to reach 30 per cent of all sales.

Officials acknowledged the agency has to walk a fine line between trying to draw business away from the black market and not pricing the products so low that they encourage consumption.

The SQDC expects the number of outlets to expand to up to 150 in the next three years.

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