A closer look at the rules for weed re­tail­ers

24 Hours Vancouver - - FRONT PAGE - ADA SLIVINSKI E-mail:; Web­site:

Ac­cord­ing to new mar­i­juana mar­ket­ing guide­lines re­leased Wed­nes­day by The Coali­tion for Re­spon­si­ble Cannabis Brand­ing af­ter work­ing with Ad­ver­tis­ing Stan­dards Canada, com­pa­nies mar­ket­ing mar­i­juana will not be able to use an­i­mals to sell pot nor will be they be able to pro­mote the use of cannabis it­self ( just brand pref­er­ence) and they will be re­quired to ad­ver­tise in places where over 70 per cent of the au­di­ence is adult (or above the age of ma­jor­ity in the par­tic­u­lar prov­ince).

These guide­lines, ex­pected to be en­dorsed by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment seem to make sense and are stricter than what we cur­rently have in place for al­co­hol. Un­der them, we wouldn’t see a com­mer­cial or foxes smok­ing joints dur­ing the hockey game or SpongeBob SquarePants. But let’s not be naïve that guide­lines like this will make much of a dif­fer­ence. Ad­ver­tis­ing has changed dras­ti­cally over the past five years. This year, 3.3 bil­lion was spent on TV ad­ver­tis­ing in Canada while 5.23 bil­lion was spent on dig­i­tal ad­ver­tis­ing ac­cord­ing to Sta­tis­tica. The dig­i­tal sec­tor keeps grow­ing and it’s much harder to po­lice than tra­di­tional plat­forms. How ex­actly do you dis­tin­guish be­tween an In­sta­gram post pro­mot­ing a spe­cific brand and a post that pushes pot in gen­eral? Let’s be clear, any mar­i­juana ad­ver­tis­ing glo­ri­fies the drug.

The international mar­ket for cannabis is pro­jected to hit $31.4 bil­lion by 2021, ac­cord­ing to a new re­port from the Bright­field Group, a cannabis mar­ket re­search firm. That’s a huge mar­ket and ad­ver­tis­ing by mar­i­juana com­pa­nies in Canada has al­ready be­gun.

Just visit the so­cial me­dia pages for Birch + Fog, a Van­cou­ver-based on­line cannabis re­tailer. “Fo­cus on task, re­fresh from stress, cre­ate your art, re­lax from long days, en­hance en­er­getic work­outs, ig­nite pas­sion­ate nights,” reads the com­pany’s In­sta­gram bio. Through images and cap­tions, the com­pany pro­motes mar­i­juana use. It’s near im­pos­si­ble to pro­mote a cannabis brand with­out en­dors­ing cannabis use. While TV ads have to go through many eyes and rounds of ap­proval be­fore they ap­pear on air, on­line al­most any­thing goes.

Ad­di­tion­ally, those young peo­ple the guide­lines are sup­posed to shield from mar­i­juana ad­ver­tis­ing, they’re the ones spend­ing the ma­jor­ity of time on so­cial me­dia and on­line.

Yes, un­der these guide­lines we might not see a mag­a­zine spread pro­mot­ing sativa for re­lax­ation, but it re­ally might not mat­ter. Young eyes are not por­ing over mag­a­zines, they’re scrolling through In­sta­gram feeds and there any­one can post in­stantly with­out any sort of reg­u­la­tory ap­proval. If we want to pro­tect our young peo­ple, we need to hit the ground run­ning with ed­u­ca­tion cam­paigns be­fore this stuff is le­gal and not rely on the Cannabis Brand­ing Coali­tion to pro­tect our kids for us.


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