As National Legalization Looms, Advertising Takes the Spotlight in Canada


Justin Trudeau, the leader of the Liberal Party and Canada’s current Prime Minister, scored a victory when the Canadian Government decided that marijuana would be legalized recreationally nationwide by July 2018. But how do you advertise it and remain under the law? Canada has restrictions already in place governing the advertisement of alcohol and tobacco as well as vape pen products. It is expected that the restrictions on advertising marijuana to be as stringent, if not more so.

What About Advertising Cannabis?

Many in Canada are thinking that the approach to advertising cannabis will be similar to advertising alcohol or tobacco. What would that mean? It would likely mean non-descript packaging, controls on how the product can be displayed for sale, and of course, no advertising involving happy Canadians smoking pot with good looking friends.

Those in the cannabis industry are also telling legislators and the public that they do not want to target children. In fact, growers say that children use the black market to buy marijuana in Canada more than in any industrialized country.

Some of the other ideas brought up include prohibiting celebrity spokespersons and ambassadors. Some also call for stringent controls on online marketing. Still more are calling for bans on products that may be infused with marijuana that might be appealing to children such as gummy candy.

Even the CEO of one of Canada’s largest marijuana distributors, Aphria, wants these stronger controls to be in place. In fact, Vic Neufield wants there to be serious punishment for the companies that violate these restrictions.

Ian Cuthbert, an executive director with the Canadian Public Health Association, said that their preference is for a complete ban on marketing. He doesn’t think that such a ban would stand up to a challenge in the country’s Supreme Court, so he would settle for advertising in retail outlets restricted to adults only.

Alcoholic beverage companies, in particular, are keen to see that the marijuana industry faces similar – if not stricter – regulations than they currently face. Canadian alcoholic beverages cannot be shown to make a party livelier, promote that alcohol consumption provides a better lifestyle, or use celebrities to sell their product. In fact, celebrities cannot even be shown in any form of marketing to even be holding a partially consumed glass or bottle of alcohol.


What are the Current Advertising Guidelines?

In the meantime, the advertising protocols are clear. Canada has not officially legalized recreational marijuana yet. Thus, cannabis is a Schedule A drug, which means that it is not an approved drug or medicine in Canada. However, because courts have deemed the availability of the drug to be a human right, there have been some advertising guidelines released.

The first restriction is that cannabis cannot be marketed as a preventative, treatment, or cure for any of the diseases, disorders, or abnormal physical states referred to in Schedule A.

The second restriction states that cannabis cannot be represented in a way that is false, misleading or deceptive. Further, it cannot create an erroneous impression regarding its value, character, quantity, merit, or safety.

The third restriction regulates that any advertisement of a narcotic must have the letter “N” prominently and conspicuously displayed in the upper left-hand corner of the advert.

Penalties for not meeting these restrictions can include prosecution, and fines ranging from $250,000 to $5,000,000. Penalties can also include a jail term from six months to two years or both the fine and the jail term.

Despite the misconceptions about marijuana, legalization is looming nationwide. It is likely that the federal government will eventually release some restrictions and protocols in regards to the advertising or marketing of cannabis. While it is clear that they do not want legalized marijuana falling into the hands of – or being advertised to – children, it is not certain what, exactly these restrictions will be.


Michael is a marketing and creative content specialist at with a primary focus on customer satisfaction. Technology and fitness combined with healthy lifestyle obsession are his main talking points




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