Legalization of adult-use recreational cannabis is on the horizon in Canada. As of October 17, 2018, recreational cannabis will be legal for adults aged 18 or 19 and older. It is important to note that until this date, it remains illegal to posess, sell or undertake any activities with cannabis, unless authorized to do so.
While many opportunities exist, there are also hurdles, especially when navigating the regulatory regime. Canada is in a position to set benchmarks for best practices and so it is important that companies operate within the legal limits and practice responsible, ethical marketing at all times.
Tackling cannabis regulatory constraints requires agility, innovation and creativity. While it is paramount to stick to the law, marketers can leverage an array of tools to communicate, share information and educate in order to elevate the industry, build the community, raise awareness and gain credibility for brands.
Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act, was passed and received Royal Assent on June 21, 2018.
Under the Cannabis Act, the federal, provincial and territorial governments will have specific roles and responsibilities. The federal government will have oversight of the regulatory framework that governs the licensed cultivation, commercial production and manufacturing or adult-use recreational cannabis, while provinces and territories will be responsible for distribution and sale.
The Cannabis Act includes restrictions on several types of promotional activities which closely resemble those for tobacco. The Act prohibits:
- Products, promotions, and packaging and labelling that are appealing to youth;
- Sale of cannabis through self-service displays or vending machines;
- False, misleading, or deceptive advertising; and
- Sponsorship, testimonials, and endorsements or other forms of promotion that could entice young people to use cannabis.
Penalties for violating the prohibitions are steep, including a fine of up to $5 million, 3 years in jail, or both.
The Cannabis Act bans mass advertising - so no billboards, magazines, radio or TV. The Act does however allow 'informational' promotion of cannabis or cannabis accessories and services, that present facts or 'promote brand' preference, but only shown in places where youth are not legally allowed, or broadcast if "reasonable steps" have been taken to ensure they "cannot be accessed by a young person." These types of cannabis promotions also cannot be associated with 'glamour, recreation, excitement, vitality, risk or daring'.
As this is an evolving regulatory area, content will be updated to reflect legislative changes and evolving narrative.