Canada's Pot Companies Going Heavy on Promotional Marketing as Crackdown Looms
While the act itself doesn’t become effective until Oct. 17, meaning that recreational marijuana will remain illegal until that date, cannabis brands will be able to promote themselves for the time being without fearing the promotional regulations attached to the Cannabis Act.
According to the CBC, brands have been taking full advantage of the limited opportunity by promoting their products at events all over Canada. At recent concerts put on by Jethro Tull and Kendrick Lamar at Toronto’s Budweiser Stage, Tweed, the recreational brand of Smith Falls, Ontario-based marijuana company Canopy Growth, has used banners to get its logo noticed by possible future end-users.
Aurora Cannabis, an Alberta-based brand, is inviting fans to enter a ticket contest for the chance to see free shows by Kings of Leon, The Cult and Sam Roberts at venues across Canada.
In addition, Up Cannabis has recently staged a music and lifestyle event for media near Toronto with Canadian indie rock superstars The Tragically Hip in order to promote a new strain of cannabis named after one of the band’s songs.
While all of these promotions seem both spot-on and inventive (music and marijuana ... that’s practically a given), they will no longer be legal once the Cannabis Act takes effect in October.
In order for the act to pass, lawmakers agreed to make it very clear that it would not allow promotion that would glamorize cannabis use in any way that could appeal to children. The resulting regulations are comparable to those used to control the promotion of alcohol and tobacco products in Canada. Specifically, the area of the act that mentions promotion begins: "Unless authorized under this Act, it is prohibited to promote cannabis or a cannabis accessory or any service related to cannabis…” and goes on to mention a number of highly specific ways in which cannabis brands will and will not be allowed to promote their products.
For instance, brands will not be allowed to promote cannabis through sponsorship of people, events or buildings, through testimonials and endorsements, or using any depictions of persons, celebrities, characters or animals.
And while it seems that brands will not be restricted from using promotional products to bolster their brand impressions, the wording of the act’s exception regarding the use of brand elements on objects and things not including cannabis or cannabis accessories definitely leaves room for interpretation:
Exception — brand element on other things
(6) Subject to the regulations, a person may promote cannabis, a cannabis accessory or a service related to cannabis by displaying a brand element of cannabis, of a cannabis accessory or of a service related to cannabis on a thing that is not cannabis or a cannabis accessory, other than
- (a) a thing that is associated with young persons;
- (b) a thing that there are reasonable grounds to believe could be appealing to young persons; or
- (c) a thing that is associated with a way of life such as one that includes glamour, recreation, excitement, vitality, risk or daring.
For instance, what does and does not constitute “a thing that is associated with young persons?” How will this wording affect, say, the use of a T-shirt to promote a recreational cannabis brand? How about a pair of sunglasses? What, if anything, will cannabis brands be allowed to use in order to promote their products and build brand recognition in a market that will certainly be crowded come October?
While we fret over these details, cannabis brands will certainly continue to take advantage of the few months they have left before the Cannabis Act kicks in by promoting their products and logos wherever and whenever they can. As someone has certainly said before, if the future ain’t bright, then you’d better seize the heck out of the moment.