Oregon has some issues with how we regulate our cannabis programs, with truly baffling and seemingly self-defeating rules and regulations.
For example, those who grow and process cannabis are forbidden from sharing samples with legal-aged consumers, because, um… look, don’t worry about why, they just are, okay? Rules are rules!
Even if these rules are maddening, at least they’re clear. You know who has maddening rules about cannabis that are not clear? It’s Canada, and OMFG, it’s as though the people who wrote these got reeeeeeally high and extremely paranoid before they wrote them. (“Dude! Your mom! She KNOWS!”)
Vice Canada has a great piece which helps us, the loudest North Americans, gain some insight into what cannabis brands and consumers must deal with up north.
Vice points out that the sales between the two countries differ substantially: In 2017, cannabis sales were estimated in the US at 50 billion US dollars, with a mere $6 billion of that coming from legal sales, primarily in California, Colorado, and Washington. Meanwhile, the Canadian cannabis market is estimated to hit 5 billion Canadian dollars in legal sales by 2021.
As with any commodity, those sales are driven in part by a brand’s ability to tout its benefits, both on its on merits and in relation to its competitors, while invoking all the feelings through associations with the brand.
But like a repressed WASP without access to a glass of wine, Canada’s Cannabis Act doesn’t believe that messy feelings need to be experienced.
In fact, brands are prohibited from marketing their cannabis “in a manner that associates it or the brand element with, or evokes a positive or negative emotion about or image of, a way of life such as one that includes glamour, recreation, excitement, vitality, risk, or daring.”
What? What the actual fuck? What does that leave for? An image of someone folding laundry? Completing an expense report? Trimming toenails? And what does copy for adverts look like?
“Things which are legal now include cannabis. Maybe this is something you wish to try, or maybe not.”
“Some plants are smokable. Cannabis is one such plant, and we grow it, and make it available for legal sale.”
“Cannabis. It’s a thing now, you know. Yep. That’s right. Okay then.”
These rules have consequences for those who break them, and it’s frustrating for those who are unsure what marketing materials devoid of all emotion should look like.
An egregious violation occurred last October, when the province of New Brunswick* discovered Canada’s federal government is not playing around. The feds cracked down on a government-run New Brunswick website that really crossed the line.
(Content warning: The following graphic descriptions of the website’s content may serve as triggers for anyone in the Canadian federal government, and should be read with caution.)
Per The Global News, the website provided tips on how to roll a joint, which is pretty horrible, yes, but get ready to clutch your pearls, because that wasn’t the worst of it.
Regulatory officials were particularly upset that the website had three photos of people. As the News reported, “Health Canada officials suggest it was these images of people ‘having fun’ which violate Federal rules…. The rules forbid using the picture of anyone, real or fictional, to promote cannabis.
The images showed:
• A man with stylish glasses and an absurd mustache writing on a desk or table. You cannot see what he is writing, but I bet it’s a letter warning others not to take the cannabis, or they will end up wasting precious time growing such a stupid fucking mustache, the type where you just want to punch it. He doesn’t look like he’s “having fun.”
• A woman in athletic wear sitting cross-legged with her eyes closed. Why are they closed? Perhaps because she is too high to open them after doing all that cannabis, and she sees terrifying things when she does, a never ending, waking nightmare of demons and fears. That happens a lot. Despite this, she looks serene, but not as if she’s “having fun.”
• Two men and two women, with one of the women gleefully holding out her phone to take a photo of the group, who are gathered together, laughing and smiling for their soon to be shared and liked photo. They probably think they are “having fun,” but, you see, they aren’t, that’s just the cannabis making them think they are. In fact, the woman taking the photo will soon find that she is just imagining the other three, due to—that’s right—all the cannabis she took. She is, in fact, very much all alone and high AF. Sad.