As a creative working in cannabis marketing, in our particular case for one of Canada’s largest cannabis producers, there are going to be a lot of questions. What can we say in these ads? What can’t we say? How can we engage our audience? What kind of imagery can we use?

We memorized Bill C-45, front to back. We consulted with our regulatory team. We reached out to Health Canada. And here is what we learned.

  1. Stick to the facts: Start with what you CAN do, which is provide valuable knowledge to consumers. This can include some of the following: specifics about strains but not the possible effects since this can be subjective; tasting notes not romanticized in any way (stay away from adjectives such as delicious or even pleasant); and educational tactics to help reduce harm to youth. If it can’t be backed by science, don’t say it!
  2. Focus on things, not people: To quote Bill C-45, you “cannot promote cannabis by means of a depiction of a person, character, or animal.” Even inanimate objects that evoke a lifestyle or a feeling are off the table (and that table better be emotionally neutral).
  3. Ask questions and clarify: If you’re unsure about something, ask questions. Consult Bill C-45, reach out to Health Canada, talk to your legal or regulatory team. Don’t just guess if something is legal, make sure. Which leads us to our next point…
  4. Do better, be better: Maybe now is not the best time to push the envelope (and get your ads taken down and your clients fined). It’s up to us as the creatives leading the way to set a good example. Staying within the confines of the law shows the government we can play nice and our adversaries we’re in it for the right reasons.
  5. Dig for that opportunity: After all is said and done, you have a small sandbox to work from. It may seem limiting, and this isn’t a skies-the-limit-do-whatever-you-want kind of challenge. But as a creative, that’s often where you do your best work. In fact, sometimes these seemingly difficult challenges can turn into award-winning projects. (Hey, it worked for us!)

We’d love to chat cannabis marketing with you, so feel free to reach out.
Good luck out there!