Article by Kate Robertson, Lift News
The federal government’s strict new cannabis packaging rules are unrolling the industry’s plans to rebrand for recreational weed. “Our greatest fears were realized when Health Canada took that approach in their recommendations,” says Terry Lake, vice-president of corporate responsibility at Quebec licensed cannabis producer Hydropothecary and a former British Columbia health minister.
“I’m a strong proponent of public health,” Lake tells Lift news. “But they’ve gone too far.”
The Liberals are proposing cannabis packaging and labelling guidelines that are more restrictive than for tobacco. Recreational cannabis containers can only be one colour and one branding component, such as a logo, plus a brand name, a large yellow health warning and a bright red universal warning indicating the product contains THC.
The recommendations, which also include new micro-cultivation and micro-processing licences for smaller businesses, came as a result of Health Canada’s consultation process. Since November, they received 450 written submissions and 3,218 online survey responses, says the report. Most people identified themselves as individuals, but 192 identified as organizations and another 343 identified as stakeholders.
A Double Standard
Last fall, 17 licensed producers formed the Coalition for Responsible Cannabis Branding and issued their own guidelines largely reflecting alcohol marketing restrictions. One of their main guiding principles was around branding: “Marketing by LPs will only promote brand preference, and will not attempt to influence adult non-consumers of psychoactive cannabis products to become consumers.”
But brands will have a difficult time distinguishing themselves or their products with the new restrictions, says Lake. For him, that means black market brands will have an advantage – hardly a move that will advance the government’s declared goal of eliminating illegal cannabis companies – worries consumers, particularly those new to cannabis, will be confused by packages that all look similar. Lake adds that the proposed warnings about addiction, impairment and use during pregnancy or breastfeeding aren’t accurate.