Article by Angela Stelmakowich, Growth Op
It’s now up to a Quebec judge to decide if the provincial ban on selling products ranging from T-shirts to books simply because they include a cannabis image is too broad and restrictive, as one Montreal headshop co-owner argues it is.
Michael Chevalier, a lawyer for the shop owner, argued the all-encompassing ban on all images of weed leaves and drug-related slogans inhibits legitimate freedom of expression, according to a report by The Canadian Press.
Indeed, the provincial government has not proved the prohibition advances a key pillar of legalizing recreational cannabis, ensuring that the drug does not cause harm to the public, young people, in particular.
Despite recreational cannabis being legalized more than two years ago, Christopher Mennillo, co-owner of smoking accessory stores Prohibition, said he cannot sell weed-themed merchandise of any kind. “After 35 years of selling a product, we weren’t expecting for it to become illegal with legalization,” Mennillo, whose company filed the lawsuit, told The Canadian Press.
It’s certainly not a free-for-all federally. Promotion prohibitions under the Cannabis Act mean weed-related brands need to take care in how their products and services are promoted and plenty of restrictions exist. For a first offence, failing to comply could lead to as much as a $250,000 fine and/or up-to six months imprisonment.
According to retailer.ca, “While a bottle opener, water bottle or hat may be acceptable to put your brand element on, items that are associated with youth, such as knapsacks and guitars, are off-limits.”
In Ontario, cannabis and cannabis accessories are the only product that can make an in-store appearance. But items like apparel and other products may be good to go “online or in other non-cannabis retail outlets,” retailer.ca reports.
In Quebec, retail outlets of the Société québécoise du cannabis (SQDC) “can sell accessories, specialized publications on cannabis or any other product determined by government regulation,” notes information from the provincial government. Businesses selling cannabis accessories, for their part, “must comply with the rules applicable to tobacco accessories provided in the Tobacco Control Act on retail sale, including those on display and signage.”
It is prohibited for business operators to sell, give or supply an object if it has “a name, logo, distinguishing guise, design, image or slogan that is associated with cannabis, a brand of cannabis, the SQDC or a cannabis producer. For example, it is prohibited to sell a T-shirt or an ashtray on which a cannabis leaf appears,” the provincial government reports.