Have you started your cannabis business yet? With billions of dollars being invested into the space it is no wonder people are starting businesses around the cannabis to get in on the ground level.
Cannabis is no longer looked at the way it once was. With icons around the globe speaking up around cannabis it has gained momentum and is working its way to be on the same playing field as alcohol.
Similar to alcohol, there are guidelines your business and brand must follow when advertising and promoting cannabis to avoid being penalized. The difference however is that since marketing cannabis is so new that a lot of companies are struggling with how to legally promote their products.
With all of that said, there's no reason not to go down that cannabis venture, but just be aware of what guidelines you need to follow. Here are a few must-knows when marketing cannabis legally in Canada whether you are a cannabis business owner or cannabis marketing agency.
Know the Cannabis Act Promotion Prohibitions Inside and Out
As set out in the purpose section of the Cannabis Act, the legislation aims to protect public health and public safety, including protecting the health of young persons by restricting their access to cannabis, protecting young persons and others from inducements to use cannabis and enhancing public awareness of the health risks associated with cannabis use.
As outlined in this fact sheet, the Cannabis Act specifies a number of prohibitions related to the promotion of cannabis, cannabis accessories and services related to cannabis, as well as some exceptions for limited promotion.
* Government of Canada Website - https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/drugs-medication/cannabis/laws-regulations/promotion-prohibitions.html
In laymen terms, cannabis is legal but that doesn't mean you can promote it however you want. Brands need to promote with caution and abide by the rules and regulations stated in this act to stay within the law to avoid penalties or even jail time.
Age Appropriate Advertising
When promoting cannabis and cannabis related products the message should never be aimed towards minors. Packaging that could appeal to children, logos that are relatable to children or websites that are accessible by children are all huge red flags. All websites that promote cannabis culture need to be age-gated.
What is age-gating? Age-gating is a technical protection measure used to restrict access to digital content from those that are not appropriately-aged. - Taken from Wikipedia
Taken from https://www.civilized.life
Not only are websites using age-gating but social media profiles are now making this part of their marketing practice. You can see how Dosist has stated that their product are for adults of 21 years or older. This doesn't totally clear them but it is one way companies are trying to find a way to abide by the law. Some companies have gone one step further by completely blocking out their social media pages by using the age verification built into your account when you are logged in. This means when you visit that page you won't see the content at all, just a statement saying you are not of age.
ShowCasing Cannabis as part of an appealing Lifestyle
Marketing is all about showcasing a lifestyle that is related to the product, brand or service you are promoting. However with cannabis it is a bit different as this goes against the Cannabis Act Promotion Prohibitions. Although this is the law here in Canada we still see influencer's and brands doing this heavily in the United States. This is because cannabis companies in the US are subject to different laws than we are in Canada. In Canada, the law is a little undefined, we still see celebrities advocating for marijuana regularly which isn't illegal but because celebrities are seen as individuals with exciting lives, does that break the law? It's a fine line that the government is going to have trouble controlling.
Do you remember when Cannabis NB first launched their website? They were immediately asked to make adjustments as their imagery depicted a certain lifestyle you can have when consuming cannabis.
Read about it here, https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/cannabis-nb-website-breaking-rules-1.4870124
Brands are now focusing on specific brand content that targets their ideal audience. This could be posting motivational quotes, pictures of nature or referencing pop culture.
don't create misleading claims about the medicinal benefits of cannabis
Every company will want to state their product will help with health benefits but until that is researched and proven this is against the Canadian law. Companies are getting around this by conducting their own research as it this allows this to fall into a grey area. Most businesses however share information about their company and posts around health and wellness but not specifically claiming that their product will provide those results.
With cannabis being so new companies are bound to not only push the boundaries but also make mistakes. The grey areas of advertising will be touched regularly until these laws are more defined. Focusing on the brand is always a safe play when building your business. There are many more laws and restrictions but these are just a few rules you need to be aware of. If you are in the space always check with your legal team to make sure you are within the law.