In the excitement of Canadian cannabis legalization, many overlooked that cannabis legislation is in fact focused on controlling the production, distribution, sale and possession of cannabis in Canada to achieve three objectives:
- Protect young persons
- Reduce illicit drug-related activities
- Protect public health and safety
With these objectives in mind, it is not surprising that Canadian cannabis legislation imposes strict restrictions on the packaging, labelling and promoting of cannabis – and strict penalties for contravention of such regulations.
Canadian law restricts the use of Brand Elements in association with not only cannabis - but also cannabis accessories and cannabis-related services. Brand Element is a broad definition that includes (but is not limited to) brand names, trademarks and logos.
Brand Elements must not (among other prohibitions):
- Appeal to a young person
- Include a testimonial or endorsement
- Include a depiction of a person, character or animal (real or fictional)
- Associate cannabis with a way of life such as one that includes glamour, recreation, excitement, vitality, risk, or daring
- Mislead or create an erroneous impression about characteristics, value, quantity, composition, strength, concentration, potency, purity, quality, merit, safety, health effects, or health risks
- In any way resemble the standardized cannabis symbol
Packaging + Labelling
Canadian law mandates strict packaging requirements for cannabis products. Such requirements include (with some exceptions):
- The Immediate Container must be opaque or translucent
- The interior surface and exterior surface of any container must be one uniform colour - and such colour must be non-metallic, non-fluorescent, and must contrast with the yellow health warning message and the red standardized cannabis symbol
- The interior surface and exterior surface must have a smooth texture (e.g., no embossing, raised features, etc.)
- Can only display one Brand Element (other than the brand name) whose size must not exceed that of the health warning message or the standardized cannabis symbol
The label affixed to the cannabis product container must display specific information, including:
- The brand name (displayed only once and not in type size greater than the health warning message)
- The health warning message
- The standardized cannabis symbol (where the cannabis product contains THC in specified concentrations)
With some exceptions, liability for contravening provisions under the Cannabis Act are quite severe, and include fines not exceeding $5 million, and even imprisonment. Importantly, such liability and punishment extends to directors, officers, agents and mandataries who have directed, authorized, assented to, acquiesced in or participated in the commission of an offence in the Act. We also note that the Act specifically confirms that a person is liable for a violation that is committed by its employee, agent, or mandatary whether or not that employee, agent or mandatary is identified or prosecuted for the offence.
Resources for Business
This article highlights some of the cannabis branding and packaging requirements in Canada; however, it is far from an exhaustive list of the requirements and prohibitions in this area of law. Field Law's Cannabis Industry Group has experience advising cannabis producers and retailers on regulatory compliance, mergers and acquisitions, and raising capital in the private markets. We are also available to assist prospective cannabis retailers with applications for retail licenses, lease negotiations, raising capital and development permit appeals.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.