Medical marijuana producers oppose federal task force’s calls for plain packaging and bans on advertising
By Laura Kane
“There are millions of Canadians who purchase cannabis. What the federal government is trying to do is get people to switch over from the illegal and unregulated market to the regulated market,” he said.
“If they want to do that, it makes sense to allow us to state who we are, to establish our brands, to justify why it makes sense for consumers to go through the legal system instead of going to somebody they know in the neighbourhood.”
In terms of advertising, Battley said he believes that cannabis should be treated essentially the same as liquor, a sector where companies cannot show people using the product in commercials or target underage individuals.
The federal task force recommended that plain marijuana packaging be allowed to include the company name, strain name, price, amounts of psychoactive ingredients and warnings.
Different to liquor marketing?
But that information isn’t enough to ensure people can buy the product they want, said Mark Zekulin, president of Tweed, a subsidiary of Canopy Growth, the largest of Canada’s publicly traded marijuana companies.
“If you try to compare five different whiskies, they’re all going to be 35 per cent alcohol or 40 per cent alcohol, but at the end of the day they’re all very different,” he said.
“Cannabis is probably more diverse.”
A ban on branding and advertising could create a more level playing field between large licensed producers and smaller “craft” growers, said Lindsay Meredith, a marketing professor at Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business.
But Meredith said it would be a problem for the federal government if it allows marketing of liquor but not cannabis.
The argument that producers need branded packaging and advertising in order to lure users from the illegal market has some merit, he added.
“You’re not going to buy my product if you don’t know it exists,” he said.
“The whole idea of branding, developed hundreds of years ago, was because 10 of us made a product. Nine of us did a lousy job making it. One guy did a good job making it. People who were using the product wanted to know which guy was doing it.”