Pubdate: Tue, 04 Jul 2017
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The Toronto Star
Author: Scott Wheeler
Page: B1


Distributors say they don't want the headaches that come with
marketing to young Canadians

Cam Battley is a father to a Grade 9 son and 10-year-old daughter.
He's a scout leader of nine years and a soccer coach to both of his
kids. He's also the executive vice-president of one of Canada's
largest marijuana distributors.

As Canada prepares for the legalization of marijuana, he and others in
the industry have something they want you to know: they aren't
interested in selling to your children.

"I don't want underaged kids using cannabis any more than I want them
using alcohol or prescription drugs," said Battley, who runs the
marijuana company Aurora.

In fact, Canada's pot industry says it's trying to get marijuana out
of the hands of youth, who use its underground market more than any
other industrialized country.

Distributors have called on the federal government, which is firm on
its deadline to legalize marijuana by July 2018, to heavily regulate
recreational marijuana advertising. Some have requested prohibition on
celebrity brand ambassadors who lure and entice youth into using their

Others have asked for stringent controls on the online marketing
world. Some have pushed for mandatory approval of all recreational
marijuana marketing by Canada's Advertising Standards Council. Yet
others have called for bans on popular infused products that could
appeal to young people, such as gummies.

"We are very, very comfortable with having a very regimented - with
enforcement - set of rules that govern advertising," said Vic Neufeld,
the CEO of Aphria, a Canadian marijuana distributor. "As descript and
as very tightly wound as those regs are going to be, that's good with

He wants serious punishment for companies that market marijuana to
Canada's youth.

"You really, really need to have enforcement. I don't want to call
them bloodhounds but they (the government) need to be on top of this,"
Neufeld added. "Where there's commerce, there's going to be some very
sharp marketers."

Ian Culbert, executive director with the Canadian Public Health
Association, said their preference is for a complete ban on marketing,
something he acknowledged might not withstand a Supreme Court challenge.

He'd settle for advertising in adult-only retail locations.

"This will be a good business on any basis. There's no need for
anybody to play any unpleasant games and promote it irresponsibly, so
let's get the responsible business guidelines in place right now,"
Battley said.

The marijuana industry says it doesn't need to sell to young people to
be profitable. Yet the industry's only motivation is to sell more
products, Culbert said.

"No matter what they say, increasing sales overall is their prime
motivation and that runs counter to the good of the public in almost
every situation," he said.

"This is an industry that gets a lot of press as it is," said Dr. Jeff
Blackmer, the Canadian Medical Association's medical professionalism
vice-president. "People will be well aware of the fact that this is
available and they'll be able to make an adult choice without that

In Colorado, marijuana advertising in television, radio, print and
online is prohibited unless the retailer "has reliable evidence that
no more than 30 per cent" of the audience can be reasonably expected
to be under the age of 21, according to the state's retail marijuana

The Ministry of Health won't move forward with announcing specific
regulations until Bill C-45 is passed.

"Once legislation passes, regulations can be introduced which will
provide a more detailed picture as to how the restrictions on
marketing, promotion, packaging and labelling will be implemented,"
said ministry spokesperson Andrew MacKendrick.

"It provides pretty broad strokes for restrictions in general. It has
to provide the box that everything else fits in."

Bruce Linton, CEO of marijuana producer Canopy Growth, said all the
licensed providers understand the federal government's agenda.

"Youth are off limits," he said. "They wish to squeeze out the black
market suppliers and to message, educate and manage to have
(marijuana) not as something which youth 18 and under are even
contemplating because they understand why not to."

Linton and others prefer to market to the 45- to 65-year-old
demographic, one that has disposable income, is law-abiding, wants a
low-calorie product and takes other medications that require minimal
interference (a common concern with alcohol).

Rather than selling a strong marijuana high to current users, they're
preparing products that are moderate and consistent to avoid
randomness for a consumer who may not have tried marijuana in 30 years
- - or ever.

Battley encourages advertising regulations on time of day and
location, including restrictions in places frequented by young people.

At a recent talk to a gym full of 700 high school students, he
encouraged students to avoid for as long as possible the use of any
intoxicating substance because of the adverse affects they can have on

"I asked them to put up their hands if somebody has tried to sell them
cannabis at school. Most of the hands went up," Battley said.

"Then I asked the question, 'Has anybody tried to sell you liquor at
school?' None of the hands went up. To me, that's an indication that
if we get this right, it can in fact achieve that critical objective
of the federal government of reducing youth access."

After legalization, he wants to be able to look himself in the mirror,
he said.

"I want to be able to look my kids in the eye and say, 'I was part of
a good thing.' "
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