4 min read
Cannabis Advertising Laws in Canada
No one can imagine the modern business world without advertisements in order to attract and build relationships with customers and make a business profitable. The same applies to the cannabis industry as well. However, unlike other industries, marijuana companies are under unprecedented control at the federal level in the US and Canada, including the promotion of cannabis products as well.
Cannabis Advertising Laws in Canada aim to accomplish the following goals:
- keep cannabis out of the hands of the youth
- Keep profits out of the pockets of criminals,
- and protect public health and safety by allowing adults access to legal cannabis.
Who Regulates Marijuana Advertising in Canada?
At the federal level, Health Canada is the body regulating cannabis under the Cannabis Act. Every district and local municipality in Canada has its own legislation, generally administering minimum age restrictions and where cannabis may be purchased and consumed, and regulating cannabis advertising laws as well.
The marketing of cannabis in Canada, including advertisements, displays, labeling, packaging of cannabis, cannabis accessories, and related services, is legal but it has to be in line with many restrictions.
Unlike the advertising of tobacco and vaping products, there exists relatively little guidance from Health Canada and other regulators following the enactment of the Cannabis Act to help interpret cannabis advertising laws. Health Canada has, however, provided some cannabis marketing guidance.
Definition of advertising
The term “advertise” has the following definition under advertising laws in Canada.
Advertise – related to a product or service, means to make, to sell the product or service, a representation on a package or label about the product or service by any means, directly or indirectly, that will influence and shape attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors about the product or service.
A representation of a cannabis product, a cannabis accessory, or a service related to cannabis (directly or indirectly) means all forms of communication, including:
- printed publications;
- media releases;
- online materials, including social media (such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook).
This does not include packaging or labeling as these are regulated under other provisions of the Cannabis Act and the Cannabis Regulations in Canada.
Which Advertising Activities are Prohibited Under the Cannabis Act in Canada?
The advertising restrictions for cannabis or a cannabis accessory or any cannabis-related service under the advertising laws in Canada include:
- Communicating information about its price or distribution;
- The promotion of cannabis, a cannabis accessory, or any service related to cannabis in a manner that there are reasonable grounds to believe could be appealing to young persons;
- Using a testimonial or endorsement, however, displayed or communicated;
- Using the depiction of a person, character, or animal, whether real or fictional;
- Presenting it or any of its brand elements in a manner that evokes a positive or negative emotion about or image of, a way of life such as one that includes glamor, recreation, excitement, vitality, risk, or daring (i.e., lifestyle promoting);
- Promoting cannabis and cannabis accessories in a false, misleading, or deceptive manner so that it creates a mistaken impression about its characteristics, value, quantity, composition, strength, concentration, potency, purity, quality, merit, safety, health effects, and health risks.
- Promoted by publications published outside Canada and Broadcasts that originate outside Canada.
- Any association made between a cannabis product or a brand and a celebrity may be non-compliant with the Cannabis Act if these associations violate the above-mentioned prohibitions.
What Advertising Activities are Permitted Under the Cannabis Act in Canada?
Based on the cannabis advertising laws in Canada, persons authorized to produce, sell or distribute cannabis may advertise by means of informational and brand-preference promotion.
Informational promotion means a promotion by which factual information is provided to the consumer about cannabis or its characteristics, a cannabis accessory or its characteristics, a service related to cannabis, the availability or price of cannabis, a cannabis accessory, or a service related to cannabis.
Brand-preference promotion means cannabis, cannabis accessories, or cannabis-related service advertising by means of the brand characteristics of the service.
Advertisements mentioned above must be:
- In a communication that is addressed and sent to an individual who is 18 years of age or older and is identified by name [e.g., direct mail];
- In a place where young persons are not permitted by law [e.g., bar bathroom];
- Communicated by means of telecommunication, where the person responsible for the content of the advertisement has taken reasonable steps to ensure that the promotion cannot be accessed by a young person [e.g., appropriately age-gated website]; or
- In another place or manner as set out in regulation.
Note: Be aware that local legislation per province may be stricter. For example, in Quebec, it is prohibited to sell products (even hats, t-shirts, etc.) bearing images of the cannabis leaf.
In the end, we want to notify and advise you to focus more on advertising the brand instead of the product itself when promoting your business, both to ensure the success of your company and to be compliant with cannabis advertising laws at the same time. It can allow your customers to glance behind the scenes or show them how your employees feel about working in this breakthrough industry.