Cannabis Marketing

What Marketers Need to Know

As of October 17, 2018, the federal Cannabis Act is in effect, providing legal access to cannabis in Canada.

The objectives of the legislation are to protect public health and public safety, including:

  • Protecting health of young persons by restricting their access to cannabis.
  • Protecting young persons and others from inducements to use cannabis.

The legislation has provisions governing marketing activities for cannabis and cannabis related accessories and services in Canada. Marketing restrictions on cannabis are similar, but not identical, to tobacco restrictions and it is important for marketers to be aware of the differences.

The Canadian Marketing Association (CMA) has a Guide on Cannabis Marketing to help Canadian marketers be compliant and effective with the new federal cannabis legislation. The CMA Guide was developed by our Working Group on Cannabis Marketing, comprised of senior marketers from the cannabis industry, as well as agencies and suppliers to the industry.

The CMA Guide provides information and insights to help marketers in this newly legalized sector to comply with the legislation and follow best practices. It reflects the CMA’s mandate to provide educational resources to maintain and strengthen the professionalism and integrity of the marketing community in Canada.

As this is an evolving area, content and the CMA Guide will be updated to reflect regulatory developments, further clarity from regulators and precedent that is established over time.

Under the Cannabis Act, the federal, provincial and territorial governments have specific roles and responsibilities. The federal government has oversight of the regulatory framework that governs the licensed cultivation, commercial production and manufacturing or adult-use recreational cannabis, while the provinces and territories are responsible for distribution and sales practices.

Promotion of cannabis is regulated by sections 16 to 24 of the Cannabis Act. These sections govern marketing activities for cannabis and cannabis-related accessories and services in Canada. The promotion section of the Cannabis Act is modelled after the Tobacco and Vaping Products Act in that it begins by prohibiting all promotion activities, and then provides exceptions to the blanket prohibition.

General prohibitions include:

  • Communicating information about its price or distribution.
  • Appealing to young persons.
  • Testimonial or endorsement;
  • Depiction of a person, character, or animal, whether real or fictional.
  • Evokes a positive or negative emotion or ‘way of life’ such as one that includes glamour, recreation, excitement, vitality, risk or daring.

All activities of marketers in Canada must work within an exception provided in the Act.

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