The Coalition for Responsible Cannabis Branding ("Coalition"), made up of seventeen of Canada's authorised Licensed Cannabis Producers, in partnership with the Canadian Medical Cannabis Council and Cannabis Canada Association, has released the Adult Use Cannabis Advertising and Marketing Guidelines for Licensed Producers. The proposed guidelines, which if endorsed by government, would come into effect following the legalisation of adult consumer use of cannabis in July 2018, are designed to protect youth and the safety of all Canadians, while also ensuring that Health Canada authorised Licensed Producers can compete effectively with Canada's thriving illicit market.
The Coalition, representing approximately 90 percent of the current legal medical cannabis market, worked closely with Advertising Standards Canada (Ad Standards), the national, independent, not-for-profit advertising self-regulatory body, to develop the recommended guidelines. The final recommendations, released today, are endorsed by all parties involved. These guidelines have also been shared with – though not endorsed by - senior officials in the federal government including Health Canada's Secretariat for Cannabis Legalization and Regulation and the Office of Medical Cannabis.
"We're committed to building a competitive legal cannabis sector and working with federal, provincial and territorial governments as a long-term partner," says Cameron Bishop, Co-Chair of the Coalition for Responsible Cannabis Branding. "If adopted by the federal government, we believe these guidelines will help ensure that the legal industry can effectively compete against the illicit market."
Recommended guidelines would apply to the advertising and marketing of legalised cannabis products, accessories and services permitted to be sold under Bill C-45, The Cannabis Act, and are guided by the following five principles:
1. Marketing by LPs will only promote brand preference, and will not attempt to influence adult non-consumers of psychoactive cannabis products to become consumers.
2. Marketing by LPs will not be directed to persons under 18 years of age or under a province's or territory's designated legal age for purchase.
3. All advertising messages will contain responsible use statements.
4. To facilitate compliance with these Guidelines, LPs may voluntarily opt to submit their advertising messages to Ad Standards for pre- clearance prior to dissemination.
5. LPs agree to adhere to the provisions of the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards.
In addition to ensuring all branding be adult-focused and contain responsible use statements, the recommended guidelines allow legal, Licensed Producers of cannabis – small, medium, or large – to explain to adult consumers why the products they develop are better and safer than those offered by the illicit market. Licensed Producers must be able to offer differentiation between high and low-quality cannabis products to combat Canada's thriving illegal market in the face of legalisation.
"Working collaboratively with industry and Ad Standards we've developed common sense recommendations that reflect the relative health risks posed by cannabis. Industry recognises and shares the government's objectives of reducing the prevalence of the illicit market and keeping cannabis out of the hands of Canada's youth. These recommendations strike a balance that can achieve both of those objectives," Jeff Ryan, Co-Chair, Coalition for Responsible Cannabis Branding.
The proposed guidelines are stricter than alcohol regulations in three notable areas: a restriction to advertising only in media where more than 70% of the audience is over 18; the mandatory addition of responsible use statements; and the adherence to the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards.