Article by Susan Krashinsky Robertson, Globe and Mail
Canada’s newly legalized recreational-cannabis sector is grappling with strict rules that limit companies’ ability to use advertising to build their brands. On Tuesday, the Canadian Marketing Association will release a guide designed to address questions about the proper interpretation of those rules.
“The legislation itself isn’t completely clear in some areas,” said Sara Clodman, the CMA’s vice-president of public affairs and thought leadership. “We are providing as much guidance as we can.”
In discussions with its industry players − including cannabis producers, the advertising agencies that work with them and others − it became clear that not everyone understands how the marketing rules under the Cannabis Act differ from legislation on tobacco; what types of promotional items are permitted; and other considerations, Ms. Clodman added.
Since the Act went into force on Oct. 17, Health Canada has provided notice to seven companies that their promotional activities are not complying with the rules. “All regulated parties contacted have addressed, or are in the process of, addressing the issues raised by Health Canada,” spokesperson Eric Morrissette said in a statement. He added that Health Canada generally does not identify companies that take “the necessary corrective measures to bring their activities into compliance.” Mr. Morrissette did not respond to questions about the types of promotions that had caused concern in these seven instances. The companies involved are “regulated parties,” he said, which could refer to licensed cannabis producers or other businesses including cultivators, processors and retailers.
As the CMA becomes aware of precedents set by Health Canada’s enforcement of the rules, it will continue to amend the guide to reflect that information and any other type of guidance that emerges, Ms. Clodman said. The guide was produced by a CMA working group led by Rick Moscone, a partner at Fogler, Rubinoff LLP, and Chris Bolivar, vice-president of brand and marketing with cannabis retailer Fire and Flower. The group included marketers from companies such as BBDO Canada, Torstar Corp., and Pattison Outdoor, among others. The group has not yet been in consultation with Health Canada, Ms. Clodman said, but will consider changes on a continuing basis to what is intended to be a “living document.”]