Article by Solomon Israel, The Leaf News
Canadians shouldn’t expect to see billboards, TV and radio commercials, or newspaper advertisements for cannabis when legalization begins Oct. 17. In fact, the federal government’s strict rules on cannabis promotion effectively mean Canadians shouldn’t see any traditional advertising for marijuana companies in public, where minors could be exposed to it.
But beyond that sweeping prohibition, even cannabis industry professionals and the lawyers who advise them remain unsure exactly what kinds of promotional campaigns will be permitted by federal cannabis regulator Health Canada.
Industry players have taken to asking Health Canada outright whether particular advertising plans would comply with the new rules, says Rebecca Brown, CEO and founder of Toronto-based cannabis marketing firm Crowns Agency. But the regulator has been unwilling to rule on specific proposals, she says, instead advising companies to study the legislation and act accordingly.
Promotional restrictions in the federal Cannabis Act will apply to all media, including newspapers and magazines, digital content, signage, broadcast media, and communications sent by mail. They don’t only apply to promotions for marijuana itself, but also to accessories and cannabis-related services. Violations could carry heavy penalties, including prison time and fines of up to $5 million, or administrative penalties of up to $1 million.
The law prohibits promoting cannabis in any way that “could be appealing to young persons,” or by using testimonials or celebrity endorsements. Mascots are also forbidden, as are false advertising and promotions in foreign media. Presenting a cannabis product — or even cannabis “brand elements” like brand names, logos, or slogans — can’t be done in any way that “evokes a positive or negative emotion about or image of, a way of life such as one that includes glamour, recreation, excitement, vitality, risk or daring.”