How they can and can’t market cannabis to you
Any company that wants to be part of the cannabis industry in Canada must be licensed federally. Companies licensed under the federal regulations in Canada are called Licensed Producers (LPs). These LPs have strict rules on every aspect of the business, from seed to sale tracking as one example. There are also strict rules around marketing of cannabis, accessories, and services.
Today, we’ll focus on one specific set of restrictions on their business operations. Under the Cannabis Act, the promotion of marketing falls under Division two, Subdivision A. I discussed Subdivision B while exploring product labels and packaging here. Based on the rules, LPs cannot use product labels for their marketing. They can only present information permitted by the government. This is why the products you’ve purchases don’t have much on them at all.
First things first, companies must be honest. Their promotion of cannabis, accessories, and services cannot be a lie, as in “false, misleading or deceptive.” This includes things like “characteristics, value, quantity, composition, strength, concentration, potency, purity, quality, merit, safety, health effects or health risks.” So this should provide some certainty that LPs are being truthful in all marketing. This is a basic responsibility, but significant improvement for those of us used to the grey market.
There are a bunch of things that LPs can’t do in their general marketing operations. They cannot promote cannabis, accessories, or services in the following ways:
- Talk about price or distribution
- Appeal to young persons
- Use testimonials or endorsements
- Use real or fictional persons, characters, or animals
- They cannot present any of their brand elements in ways that would evoke a positive or negative emotion about lifestyles involving “glamour, recreation, excitement, vitality, risk or daring.”
There are exceptions!
LPs are allowed to do informational promotion or brand-preference promotion of their cannabis, accessories, and services. To me, this just sounds like advertising and marketing, but remember they are still highly restricted in what they can do with it.
They can send information to a specific adult by name. Think email marketing here. This is a significant part of what promotion companies can do. LPs can also display informational promotion where only adults are permitted by law. They must take reasonable steps to ensure young people will not see it. Think bars, clubs, and adult-only concert venues. You may have already seen an ad in a bar bathroom near you.
All that Swag
Any person who has been to a Canadian cannabis expo or conference in the last few years knows just how much swag LPs hand out. They have been using events to collect emails, knowing it would be one of their best options for direct marketing. They have also tried to get their brand logos more publicity by adding them to all sorts of things, from hats and shirts to lighters, rolling trays, and lip balm.
Whatever they, the item cannot be associated with young people, or appealing to them. These items also cannot be associated with a lifestyle including “glamour, recreation, excitement, vitality, risk or daring.”” Recent changes that restricted the size of these logos and how much space they can occupy on any single item. I expect we may continue to change this aspect of the law.
Other Random Rules
LPs have a few additional limitations I’llI’ll describe briefly. They have specific terms they can’t use. Promotion via foreign media ain’t allow. Nor is sponsorship of a “person, entity, event, activity or facility,” so don’t expect a stadium near you named after an LP.
An inducement is defined as a “thing that persuades or influences someone to do something.” LPs cannot provide incentives in any way. So no monetary prizes for making purchases, no cannabis in games, draws, lotteries, or contests. No services can be provided to encourage one to purchase weed, so no in-home free harvesting provided by the seeder provider for that cannabis plant you bought.
What about in stores?
Technically, budtenders are supposed to say very little beyond describing price and availability. The truth is that these are people with knowledge and opinions who want to interact with staff. The government did not allow self-checkouts, so they should expect a little bit of product-talk between employee and customer.
When don’t these Rules Apply
Since these are some incredibly broad rules, the government had to include some exceptions for clarity. These rules described above do not apply to other works if no money has been spent to induce the promotion. For example, I can make a video of me holding a cannabis container and post it online, but if they paid me, then it’s unlawful. Luckily nobody is paying me anything, so this blog falls under these exceptions (in my non-lawyer opinion).
Science, education, music, movies, books, and other artistic works and performances are excluded from the promotional restrictions. The same goes for reports, commentaries, and opinion pieces. These rules also do not apply to those legally able to buy and sell cannabis within the industry. Growers could market to laboratories, for example.
What to do if you like marketing
If you want to hear more about the brands and products coming out, you’ll have to do a little bit of work yourself. Go to their website and subscribe to their newsletter. This is the best way to get news and updates. You can then peruse their page and see what information they have on their webpage. The websites will be age-gated due to regulations, expect to provide your date of birth. Some sites have more general pages with restricted sections for the adult-only information. You’llYou’ll find product breakdowns, brand information, recipes, and other information with just a bit of searching.
Another option is to go into a retail store and talk to budtenders. You can also visit Provincial websites and see what information they provide. You can also discover brand names and then explore their personal webpages this way. There is a whole new world of brands and products on the market, and getting information about them requires some effort on your part. This effort ensures you buy the right product for you, made how you like it grown and produced. It also helps you decide with LPs you want to buy and which to avoid.