CASL: What Is CASL & How Does It Affect Digital Marketing in Canada?

The Cannabis Act has plenty of advertising restrictions that have made Canadian dispensaries feel like they can’t get the word out about their stores while remaining compliant. Thankfully, digital marketing provides dispensaries across North America with a reliable, measurable way to reach new customers.

At the same time, using digital marketing means that you also need to be aware of another set of regulations. For Canada, that’s the Canada Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL), which was enacted on July 1, 2014.

CASL works to protect Canadians by deterring deceptive and damaging forms of commercial communications such as spam, phishing, identity theft, and spyware. Basically, it tries to keep all the junk out of your inbox.

If you’re a Canadian business—or an international organization doing business in Canada—you need to understand how CASL may affect your ability to communicate with Canadian customers.

What Is CASL?

This piece of anti-spam legislation regulates all electronic messages that organizations send in relation to commercial activity. The most important part of CASL is a provision requiring businesses to obtain and document consent before sending commercial communications such as texts and emails to Canadians.
Remember that this legislation applies to you even if your business is not registered in Canada. This means that if you have Canadian email addresses in your email database, all your communications with them will need to be compliant with CASL. (If you’re CAN-SPAM compliant, then you’re probably CASL compliant, too. The two pieces of legislation have similar requirements, even though they aim to protect citizens of different countries.)

How Can You Become CASL Compliant?

The most important thing to do to be CASL compliant is to obtain express consent for all current and future email communications. Businesses need to be granted express consent from recipients, either orally or in writing, although consent can also be granted electronically.

Consent can also be implied, however express consent must still be sought. Implied consent is based on actions, like having an existing business relationship. If express consent is not obtained within two years of implied consent, customers must be unsubscribed. While implied consent can sometimes be enough, you should always try to obtain express consent whenever possible.

When asking for consent, you must provide recipients with the name of the person or organization seeking the consent and a mailing address, phone number, or email address where they can obtain more information. This would generally be your dispensary name and address.

Recipients must also be provided with a free unsubscribe mechanism that lets them opt-out of any and all types of communications sent by you, or any third-party affiliate. If you’re using a email software like MailChimp, this info is automatically placed at the bottom of your emails.

Dispensaries will also need to immediately review their data collection methods. You will need to ensure that CASL-compliant language is included everywhere signups and opt-ins take place.

As part of your email marketing strategy, ensure that all communications continue to be in line with CASL regulations. Every single email newsletter you send out should identify your business and email service provider, include contact information, and provide an unsubscribe mechanism to opt-out of future emails. Take a look through your email database for email addresses that end with .ca and adjust communications accordingly.

Failure To Comply

What happens if your emails don’t meet CASL requirements?

Failure to comply with the regulations will result in some pretty hefty fines for both your dispensary and possibly any owners and managers. Each violation is subject to a penalty of up to $10 million CAD.

Want to learn more? Check out our AMA-styled webinar on Canadian cannabis compliance and get your questions answered!