Pubdate: Fri, 07 Apr 2017
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2017 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Susan Krashinsky Robertson
Page: B1


In Canadian ads, alcohol cannot be shown to enliven an otherwise dull
party. Celebrities, athletes, or anyone who might be a role model to
minors, are out.

Actors can't be shown actually drinking the product, or even holding a
half-empty glass. A game of "spin the bottle" is not acceptable. Ditto
parties on a public beach. A couple at dinner cannot have a bottle of
wine on the table - that would imply they are having more than one
drink each.

These are just a few of the restrictions on television ads for
beverage alcohol. (Similar limitations apply in other media.)

Now, as the federal government prepares to introduce legislation
legalizing recreational marijuana use in Canada, booze companies have
been pushing to ensure that this nascent industry will face similar

That includes - but is not limited to - strict rules around

"As an industry, we've talked to various officials, provincially and
federally, about the rationale for certain rules regarding beverage
alcohol and how they're probably applicable to marijuana, whether
around labelling or celebrity endorsements," said Andrew Oland,
president and chief executive officer of Moosehead Breweries Ltd. and
a board member of the industry association Beer Canada. That group
took part in consultations with the federal task force on marijuana
legalization and regulation.

"Things that are not permissible in beverage alcohol shouldn't be
permissible in marijuana," he said.

Beer Canada declined to share its submission to the task force.
Spirits Canada shared its submission, which included more than a dozen
recommendations on marketing and labelling regulations that should be
imposed on recreational marijuana producers.

Many of those recommendations are similar to the rules applied to
alcoholic drinks, including that marketing should not "imply directly
or indirectly that social acceptance, social status, sexual
performance, personal success, or business or athletic achievement"
are connected to marijuana use, or that it is "essential to the
enjoyment of an activity or event."

Drinks manufacturers are not allowed to imply that a higher alcohol
level is preferable; Spirits Canada suggests the same for marijuana's
THC levels. (THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, gives marijuana its
intoxicating effect.)

The association's submission also suggests parallel restrictions on
implying immoderate consumption, or suggesting a "need" for marijuana
in the same way that ads cannot imply that someone needs a drink. And
any risk of appealing to minors - whether through flashy characters,
or in the choice of venues where ads are placed - should be eliminated.

Alcohol, tobacco and pharmaceutical drugs all face some of the
tightest restrictions in marketing and advertising in Canada.

"If you're going to introduce another drug into the marketplace, why
would you not subject that to exactly the same kinds of things that
have proven to be effective in beverage alcohol?" said Jan Westcott,
president and CEO of Spirits Canada.

The alcohol industry's requests are not limited to advertising
considerations: Establishing a minimum age for legal consumption is
another industry focus, as is taxation.

"If they price marijuana too high, they're going to allow the black
market to flourish, and they don't want to do that. Yet at the same
time, you have some of the highest beer taxes in the world, in Canada.
I'm not sure how you can sell marijuana at a low price and continue to
tax beer at some of the highest prices in the world," Mr. Oland said.

Spirits Canada's submission also asked for taxes "no less than" those
imposed on alcohol. It pushed for prohibiting the sale of marijuana at
any retailer that also sells alcohol, though Mr. Westcott

suggested that the provincial liquor boards could be involved in
wholesale distribution. And the association believes that recreational
marijuana use should not be allowed in public places.

Many of these priorities were reflected in the task force's
recommendations for legalization and regulation of cannabis, released
in November. The report recommended a minimum purchase age of 18,
while recognizing the right of provinces and territories to set the
age at the same level as their restrictions for buying alcohol.

The report also recommended strict restrictions on advertising,
similar to those faced by tobacco - such as requiring plain packaging
and prohibiting advertising appealing to children, as well as other

The report recommended balancing pricing and taxes to discourage
illicit sales, but did not specify taxing pot at the same level as
other substances such as alcohol. And it recommended not selling
marijuana alongside alcohol.

Ahead of the legislation, seven licensed marijuana producers have
written to the federal government asking for permission to use
branding to compete with illegal sellers.
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MAP posted-by: Matt