Canada has to improve the packaging of cannabis

Shane Fame Alexander
Canada has to improve the packaging of cannabis

It's time for Canada to stop imposing restrictions on cannabis brands' ability to advertise.

It is common knowledge that Canadian cannabis brands do not have the same degree of advertising freedom as their American equivalents. Let's clear the air before we look at this, such as what Canada's exact position is on the promotion of cannabis products:

As a first step, a regulated party can evaluate if their activities meet the definition of promotion as noted below.

The Cannabis Act provides the following definition of "promote":

Promote, in respect of a thing or service, means to make, for the purpose of selling the thing or service, a representation - other than a representation on a package or label - about the thing or service by any means, whether directly or indirectly, that is likely to influence and shape attitudes, beliefs and behaviours about the thing or service.

In contrast to here at home, where the government stifles the creative expression of cannabis brands, they are more lenient elsewhere.

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Although the promotion of cannabis products has been effectively controlled by the head honchos, their creative expression and reach have been restricted. On the other hand, the US has taken a more lax stance, permitting more brand flexibility. 

Canada's regulatory framework, laid out by the Cannabis Act, has imposed stringent rules to ensure responsible marketing and branding of cannabis products. 

One of the primary restrictions is the prohibition of advertising that associates cannabis with "glamour, recreation, excitement, vitality, risk, or daring." 

As such, businesses are unable to employ marketing strategies to add appeal or excitement to their products. This restriction hinders brand communication and makes it difficult for cannabis businesses to stand out from the throng of competitors.

Canadian cannabis packaging regulations are among the strictest globally. Packages must be plain, child-resistant, and display only essential information, like THC and CBD content, health warnings, and a standard symbol indicating the product's THC content. These packaging restrictions prevent brands from using attractive designs, logos, or distinctive colour schemes that could help consumers identify their products. As a result, the packaging becomes nondescript, further limiting brand visibility and recognition.

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In the States, they're taking a liberal approach to cannabis branding. Many American states with legal cannabis markets do not have federal restrictions as stringent as Canada's, and they permit creative branding, advertising, and packaging.

Brands can employ innovative marketing strategies, develop unique packaging designs, and establish a stronger brand identity, all contributing to a more competitive landscape.

One notable example of creative branding is the San Francisco-based cannabis company, Cookies. It established itself as an iconic brand in the cannabis industry. Their branding is distinctive, incorporating vibrant colours and a memorable logo, which has contributed to their popularity. Similarly, "Kiva Confections" has used innovative packaging and branding to create a strong identity in the edibles market. These American brands have successfully leveraged creative freedom to connect with consumers.

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While Canada's strict regulations aim to protect public health and reduce appeal to youth, there has not been a significant increase in child-related cannabis incidents in the United States due to more flexible branding and packaging. This hints that it is possible to maintain child safety while allowing brands more creative freedom.

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