Article by Marc Solby, Montreal Gazette
Spring has sprung and along with crocus blooms, Canadians are eagerly awaiting the legislation to create and govern the recreational cannabis market. In April 2016, Health Minister Jane Philpott announced a deadline of spring 2017 to bring in legislation. That time is now.
We hope that the government is developing legislation that is bolder and more practical than the cautious and naïve recommendations issued nearly four months ago by its task force looking at the issue. The task force, with its emphasis on law enforcement, failed to imagine and embrace a legal, recreational market. Instead, it chose an approach that is needlessly restricting and controlling. It seeks to create a market to sell cannabis, but wants to sell the least amount possible, essentially trying to suck and blow at the same time.
The report cautiously categorizes marketing elements such as product packaging and advertising under the heading “Minimizing Harm.” They rightly belong under a heading akin to “responsibly developing the market.” The team treats cannabis in a slightly more restrictive way than tobacco. In summary, it calls for:
A dedicated retail outlet, but not the liquor store (including provincial ones) because a high-traffic location like that might encourage the purchase of cannabis and might promote co-usage with alcohol;
Plain packaging with only basic information (more restrictive than current tobacco regulations);
Restricted sponsorship, endorsement and branding similar to tobacco (i.e. none);
Limited promotion (advertising) to adult-only locations, similar to tobacco.