How to advertise cannabis

Published on January 20, 2019 by The Media Playbook

Recently a Canadian company was saved millions by avoiding a bad business decision.

The company execs wanted to be the first in Canada to bring a trendy product to the mainstream market by buying an international company.

But there was a problem.

The Cannabis Act didn’t allow the product, so they wouldn’t have been able to sell it anyway.

The company learned this just in time – by happenstance from a knowledgeable source – and managed to call off the deal.

There is a lot of confusion out there around the new laws. We get asked a lot of questions about the advertising and marketing section of The Cannabis Act.

Some of the new rules have been described as downright hazy.

We’ll be delving into cannabis advertising laws over the coming weeks to try to provide some clarity. Remember, we’re not lawyers, so don’t take this as gospel.

A good place to start is the Canadian Marketing Association’s guide on cannabis advertising.

It has good insights to help marketers comply with the legislation and follow best practices.

It outlines what’s prohibited, as well as where to use caution because the law is unclear. It covers info for front-line marketers in the cannabis sector. It’s also a good source for suppliers, as it covers activities such as signage/billboards, packaging, and the sale of non-cannabis items, like swag.

Chris Bolivar, the VP of brand and marketing at Fire and Flower, helped develop the guide.

“A fair bit of confusion exists, not only for cannabis companies, but also for suppliers to the industry, from billboards and packaging to the sale of non-cannabis items such as promotional items,” he said.

“The guide will help to clarify the rules.”

Three things to know

Ways you can’t market cannabis

Television and radio advertising, promotion of a sponsorship to gain publicity, sports marketing or ads associated with a way of life, naming of a sports or cultural facility, not including other facilities are not OK.

Ways you can market cannabis

Websites, digital display ads, magazines and newspapers, cannabis industry trade shows, email marketing, like newsletters, and physical mail are allowable. The disclaimer is that you have to take reasonable steps to ensure your audience is of age.

Ways that are hazy

Some marketing is still murky. We got quite a bit of feedback to our previous column on social media influencers being a big in 2019. To clarify, no money can change hands for endorsement. That means the companies that can tap into positive vibes to get word-of-mouth mentions have an advantage.