The Canadian Health Department late last month issued a warning to the national cannabis industry (mostly growers and sellers) that also took the form of new advertising regulations. Health Canada sent letters to 20 licensed growers that provide basic guidelines for online advertising.
“The information provided by licensed producers to the public should be limited to basic information for prospective clients such as the brand name, proper or common name of the strain, the price per gram, the cannabinoid content, and the company’s contact information,” reads a related statement on Health Canada’s website.
The only problem is that additional guidelines, including bans on photography of actual marijuana buds or links to third party websites promoting the “use” of marijuana may prove a little difficult to enforce, particularly for online dispensaries which are mandated by law to provide online interfaces for transactions. What this means in the short term is that buyers must know what they want or literally take a pick in the dark when selecting strains online.
The Canadian industry is clearly in a tough place and already upset with the vague guidelines which they have been seeking input on for at least the last month.
Advertising in general for the vertical has been one of those issues, both in the U.S. and in Canada, which has slowly evolved in a gray area around other major reforms – complicated by both a dearth and too many competing regulations (and from many different aspects of oversight. Online issues in general in the United States are also almost completely non regulated because of the complication of federal law.
Per the Controlled Substances Act (or CSA) which deems marijuana a “Schedule I” drug (with no medical purpose), marijuana still remains federally illegal. Advertising in general in the U.S. (on or offline) is still a hit and miss affair. Online advertising is also a federally designated jurisdiction which is why online registered sellers (including home delivery services which provide last mile delivery service) have been so controversial this year.
On April 1, the American online dispensary list service Weedmaps intended to blast 30 days of pro cannabis messages over New York’s most famous square until CBS, the national broadcaster which owns the rental space pulled the plug at the last minute.
This summer, during the New York Time’s week-long series in favour of legalization, the paper also allowed, for the first time, a marijuana associated company (Weedmaps’ competitor Leafly) to take out a full page ad in the Old Grey Lady for the very first time.
It is likely that this issue in both Canada and the U.S. will continue to be a favourite place for hard to follow if not vague regulations for some time – until in fact the larger and still pending issues of federal reform are finally instituted.
By Marguerite Arnold