Just several days into Canada’s cannabis legalization, a chain of marijuana retail locations has been found not to be in compliance with the government’s strict advertising laws.
Cannabis NB, located in the province of New Brunswick, says it will be changing its website after Health Canada, the government’s public health department, has deemed that the company is breaking the law by associating cannabis with a particular lifestyle.
The company separates its products into three categories, depending on how consumers plan to use it: Discover, Connect and Refresh. Featured on the website are images of people smiling, taking selfies and doing yoga; the “Connect” page, for example, states, “Although many consume cannabis alone, more and more are getting together with friends for different occasions. It could be the weekly poker game, girls’ night out, or a concert with the whole group. It could even be video chatting with your friends from the comfort of your own home.”
Section 17(e) of C-45, the Cannabis Act, states that marijuana companies cannot use any type of promotion for their product that “evokes a positive or negative emotion about, or image of, a way of life such as one that includes glamour, recreation, excitement, vitality, risk or daring.”
While Health Canada has not specified which elements of Cannabis NB’s website break the law, Thierry Bélair, press secretary for the Office of Minister of Health Ginette Petitpas Taylor, said in an email to Huddle, a New Brunswick business news site, that Health Canada has already been in touch with provincial officials about the website.
“The law clearly prohibits promotions that associate cannabis with a particular way of life such as glamour, recreation, excitement or vitality,” he stated in the email. “It also prohibits promotions for cannabis that use a picture or image of any person, whether real or fictional.”
Mark Barbour, the manager of communications and public relations for Cannabis NB, said in another email to Huddle that discussions with Health Canada have been “amicable,” that no fines have been issued, and that Health Canada didn’t give specific direction for website changes, but rather a “broad perspective” on the site. The company has also “sought legal guidance” on how to read the Cannabis Act. “As is the case in many instances, legislation is subject to interpretation which can vary,” Barbour added.
Legalization, while a possible boon for promotional products companies, does come with strict rules on advertising and promoting product, and this latest development demonstrates that the government is indeed scrutinizing companies’ adherence to the regulations. “We expect all participants in this new market to follow the law,” Bélair said, “and Health Canada will continue to monitor the market and enforce the rules on a case-by-case basis.”