Pubdate: Wed, 08 Nov 2017
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2017 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Daniel Leblanc
Page: A10


Canada's biggest producers of cannabis want the federal government to
ignore the advice of its expert task force and treat marijuana
products like alcohol when it comes to branding and

A number of experts have argued that recreational cannabis should face
a restrictive marketing regime similar to the one for tobacco
products, with plain packaging and little or no advertising.

However, a new group called the Coalition for Responsible Cannabis
Branding is calling on the government to allow companies to advertise
marijuana in a similar fashion to alcoholic beverages, with colour
logos and widespread advertising. According to the coalition, which
includes 17 licensed producers and two professional associations,
allowing cannabis ads is the best way to help legal producers to
compete with the black market.

"We should align the restrictions around cannabis so that they are
virtually the same as beer, wine and liquor," said coalition spokesman
Cam Battley, who is also the executive vice-president at Aurora
Cannabis Inc. "It's the easiest and most pragmatic way to go."

Under legislation before the House of Commons, the prohibition on
cannabis will be lifted by next July. However, the federal and
provincial governments still have to develop some of the rules for how
cannabis products will be distributed and sold across Canada.

Under proposed advertising and marketing guidelines that the coalition
will release on Wednesday, companies would be able to promote products
based on taste, flavour, safety, origins and use. In addition,
cannabis products could be promoted on print, television and
social-media platforms where at least 70 per cent of the audience is
over 18 (or higher depending on a province's legal age of

At the same time, producers would be forbidden to target underage
users, to promote the actual consumption of the drug and to associate
its use with driving or any other skilled activity.

In addition, all advertising would include educational statements to
inform consumers on the ways to use cannabis safely and

Mr. Battley said the goal of legalization of cannabis is to remove
illegal producers and sellers from the market, which will reduce
consumption among underage Canadians, who will not be able to buy it

"If you want to reduce youth access, you have to carve away the black
market. In order to carve away the black market, you have to unleash
market forces," he said. "It's an incredibly sophisticated black
market that we are up against. All of their products are branded."

The federal government has not yet explained how it intends to deal
with the advertising of recreational cannabis. Details will be
unveiled in coming weeks, when the government launches consultations
on draft regulations that will accompany its legislation to legalize

Still, the coalition's proposed guidelines go much further than the
limited branding regime proposed last year by a federal task force
chaired by former Liberal cabinet minister Anne McLellan. In the
report, which the federal government has endorsed, the task force
warned about the dangers of allowing cannabis to be advertised in the
same way as alcohol products.

"In order to reduce youth access to cannabis, strict limits should be
placed on its promotion," the task force's report said. "In our view,
comprehensive restrictions similar to those created by tobacco
regulation offer the best approach."

The task force called for plain packaging and restrictions on
advertising because it is nearly impossible to shield youth and young
adults from the promotional material. It supported allowing some
promotional material inside adult-only retail spaces.

"Comprehensive advertising restrictions should cover any medium,
including print, broadcast, social media, branded merchandise, etc.,
and should apply to all cannabis products, including related
accessories," the report said.

The task force said the only information on the products' packaging,
in addition to health warnings, should be the name of the company and
the strain, as well as information on potency.
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