Marketing Under the Canadian Cannabis Act

Cannabis stocks are riding high and many Canadians are excited about the legalization of adult-use cannabis that occurred on October 17th, 2018. At the same time, provincial governments, licensed producers, and licensed retailers have been trying to parse the Cannabis Act in order to better understand how the various regulations will affect them.

The first few years of legal cannabis in Canada will likely see a flurry of additional regulations and rule changes in order to ensure that the goals of the Cannabis Act are being met. Namely, the government remains concerned with protecting young Canadians and interrupting the viability of the black market. While it has certainly taken measures to ensure that cannabis is not promoted as glamorous or appealing to kids, additional regulations may be passed to further this goal. In addition, the Cannabis Act as it stands now does not allow for the sale of edibles. Although Canadians are allowed to make their own treats at home, they won’t be able to purchase any for a couple of years or until the current prohibition is dropped.

Canadian Cannabis Sale Restrictions

Aficionados can purchase up to 30 grams of dried flower or its equivalent and can even grow up to 4 plants in the privacy of their homes.
Here’s what the government considers equivalent for 1 gram of dried cannabis:

  • 70 grams of liquid product
  • 15 grams of edible product
  • 0.25 grams of concentrate
  • 1 cannabis plant seed
  • 5 grams of fresh cannabis

Provinces can restrict this limit, however, so make sure you know the laws in your area. For retailers, it’ll be necessary to use a cannabis POS system that can help your budtenders automatically calculate these limits.

The Role of  the Canadian Provinces

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While the federal government has provided a framework for cannabis legalization in Canada, it has left the minutiae up to its provinces and territories. That means that what’s acceptable in Ontario may not fly in Nova Scotia. For licensed producers and retailers looking to operate in more than one province or territory, it’ll be necessary to stay on top of the local rules. Already, Ontario has crafted legislation that would change how cannabis is sold in that province, so expect plenty of new rules over the next few years.

Currently, provinces have the ability to control the minimum allowable age for cannabis use, legal limits in their borders, how cannabis is sold, and where cannabis can be used. This will definitely lead to some differences in cannabis access across the country. For example, 18-year-olds in Alberta and Quebec can purchase cannabis while the rest of the country has a minimum age limit of 19.

One surprising difference between cannabis sales in the US and Canada that may shock Americans is the ability for Canadian cannabis users to order their preferred strains online—and have their purchase delivered to their door by the Canadian postal service. Thanks to its medical marijuana roll-out, the country is already primed to handle the shipment of cannabis products and to ensure they get into the right hands.

In fact, the system is reliable enough that since legalization occurred on the 17th, Ontario is only selling cannabis online. (Don’t worry, Torontonians, licensed retailers are coming soon.)

Marketing Under the Candian Cannabis Act

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The Cannabis Act clearly lays out prohibited marketing activities for cannabis product makers and retailers, which has left many Canadian cannabis dispensaries scratching their heads.

Currently, cannabis retailers cannot:

  • Use celebrities to endorse their products
  • Feature customer testimonials
  • Make false, misleading, or deceptive statements or statements about the quality or efficacy of their products
  • Use people, characters, or animal mascots to market their products
  • Publish advertisements
  • Advertise using foreign media
  • Sponsor events
  • Offer “inducements” with purchase (no raffle tickets with purchase, for example)
  • Have window displays or other displays that may be seen by kids

So what is allowed? Swag that doesn’t appeal to kids (think of brand logos on a t-shirt, maybe) and informational promotion.

How, then, can dispensaries market themselves in Canada? I mean, Business 101 is all about differentiating yourself from the competition.

If you can’t advertise in “regular” ways, how can you build a loyal customer base?

We’ve found the best way for many Canadian cannabis dispensaries to reach their target audience is through digital marketing. By focusing on strong SEO practices and sharing reliable, useful information on your website that adds value to your clientele’s life, you can help create a loyal following that will keep coming back when they’re low on bud. With digital marketing, you can create an online presence that will draw your target audience to you and help you build brand loyalty. MediaJel has been helping cannabis dispensaries do just that.