The question of whether the Canadian government will regulate the marketing of legal marijuana is a question of what the marketing and branding look like and how it compares to two other age-restricted substances: tobacco and liquor.
For Canadian tobacco products, warning labels must follow certain criteria:
Health warnings must cover 75% of the front and 75% of the back of the package (one side English, the other in French).
Another warning message on the inside of each package, or on an insert.
Emission numbers for tar, nicotine, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, hydrogen cyanide, and benzene.
The terms “light” and “mild” are prohibited.
Because the Liberal government promised to legalize and regulate the marijuana market in Canada by spring 2017, there are now many public health advocates watching and commenting on how the marketing and branding side will be done. Will it follow with the more highly-regulated tobacco products or, the more readily advertised liquor, a product that is regulated province-by-province.
Right now, no advertisements or marketing is allowed for such products, and so far the only legal marijuana is the medical kind provided by licensed producers. Canada’s cannabis task force recommends plain packaging (the company name, strain name, price, amounts of psychoactive ingredients and warnings) but licensed producers are coming back saying that cannabis is less dangerous than tobacco and marketing are necessary to bring black market consumers over to the legal stuff. Companies, like Tweed and Aphria, have already started assembling in-house marketing teams.
Millions of Canadians already purchase cannabis and what the federal government is trying to switch patients from the unregulated black market to a market that is regulated. Representative Jared Polis of Colorado, a long-time cannabis advocate just reintroduced a bill in the U.S., called the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, and some Canadians feel we should do the same thing here; treat pot like liquor with strict regulations concerning marketing and advertising.
A ban on branding and advertising could create a more level playing field between large licensed producers and smaller “craft” growers, but that could make the federal government look like hypocrites if they allow the marketing of liquor but not cannabis.
Alana seeks to see cannabis from the perspective of politicians, advocates, entrepreneurs, and consumers. She got her start with a byline in the arts and culture section and crossed over into cannabis after using it medicinally. Current projects include investigations into cannabis and wellness; entrepreneurs of the Green Rush; cannabis for athletes; and the evolution of cannabis laws and culture in Canada.