Article by Colin Bambury, High! Canada
Health Canada has issued warnings to 7 Licensed Producers since recreational legalization for violating the new federal laws against cannabis promotion. Health Canada declined to identify the LPs that have not complied with the new laws or what they’ve done to receive the warning.
The Cannabis Act came into effect on October 17th, legalizing recreational marijuana for adult use in Canada. However, a new set of rules also came into place, including an extensive list of marketing regulations.
Eric Morissee, a spokesperson from Health Canada, said that “All regulated pares contacted have addressed, or are in the process of, addressing the issues raised by Health Canada.” and “To date, when contacted by Health Canada, licensed producers have been responsive in addressing issues raised by the department concerning promotion activities. Health Canada will not hesitate to take enforcement action to ensure compliance with the law and to disclose details of these actives as appropriate.”
It seems that Licensed Producers and Health Canada are actively working together to ensure marketing compliance. It is expected that in this completely new industry many mistakes will be made in the first few months. Especially because many of the regulations set out under Bill C-45 are incredibly vague and up for different interpretations.
Regulators insist that all cannabis-related promotion is completely banned, including accessories and ancillary companies. The regulations prohibit testimonials or endorsements, associating cannabis alongside the depiction of a person, character or animal, or presenting it in a manner that evokes a positive or negative emotion such as “glamour, recreation, excitement, vitality, risk or daring.”
These are very broad guidelines and don’t give legal cannabis companies much opportunity to be discovered by potential customers. This may prove to be a problem in the long-term. Especially because grey market brands (those currently operating illegally, some seeking to be licensed) are not beholden to the same marketing rules as the legal market. These companies can use all the tools in the promotion toolbox, while LPs struggle to gain brand awareness. It would be smart of Health Canada to loosen these regulations to allow for fairer competition. Many industry experts are predicting that the regs will become more liberal over time.
There still has been no official action (fines, revoking of licenses) against any cannabis companies in Canada for breaking the advertising rules. It will be interesting to see how much patience Health Canada has for these violations and how many chances are given to producers.
It is unfortunate that Health Canada refused to reveal the specifics of the violations made by these Licensed Producers. Just like the retailer situation last week, we believe it is important to examine when cannabis companies are publicly reprimanded for violating advertising rules. Not to shame or ridicule those responsible for the violation, but to learn from their mistakes. This helps us cannabis marketers figure out where the “line” is – which campaigns, imagery, and wording are permitted and which are not. We will continue to cover these types of compliance stories to help inform cannabis marketers across Canada and the world.