Legal weed market won't need billboard ads to thrive, says pot producer
Jeff Lagerquist, CTVNews.ca
Published Sunday, July 10, 2016 7:37PM EDT
Canada’s budding marijuana industry doesn’t expect Ottawa to embrace ads for weed on billboards or television screens once new legalization legislation is introduced next spring, according to the president of Canada’s highest-profile pot company.
Mark Zekulin of Tweed Marijuana Inc. says he would rather see the Liberal government’s task force on legalizing pot focus on packaging guidelines that will help Canadians enjoy legal weed safely.
“It certainly shouldn’t be advertised like a book or a box of cereal, but I think there is a need to ensure that producers can explain to the customers what they are getting, because it’s a very complex product,” Zekulin told CTV News Channel.
Different marijuana strains can produce a wide variety of physical effects depending on how they are consumed and the concentration of THC -- think of it as the difference between consuming a glass of wine versus a glass of whiskey. Zekulin worries many first-time consumers won’t be able to tell the difference unless the labelling is clear.
“Some (marijuana) is made with high THC that will have a very psychoactive effect and others have much lower amounts,” he said. “Some will help you sleep and some will give you energy. Some will have a peppery flavour and others have a berry flavour. There is a bunch of information to get across.”
Anne McLellan, a former deputy prime minister under Paul Martin who also served as a health and justice minister, will lead the federal government’s newly announced nine-member Task Force on Marijuana Legalization and Regulation. Advertising and packaging guidelines are said to be a central part of their dialogue, along with keeping pot out of the hands of children and youth, and profits out of the hands of criminals.
Licensed producers like Tweed are anxious to start plans to market their products to the general public, but remain hampered by current rules set up to manage the sale of a controlled substance rather than a legal one. Right now, Health Canada guidelines say producers can only provide basic information like the name and price.
Zekulin says there’s no need to actively encourage Canadians to purchase marijuana, since demand is already proven to be strong on the black market. He’s critical of overzealous weed advertising in places like Colorado where recreational use is newly legal.
“People think it went too far (in Colorado). I don’t know if there were billboards, but there was probably too much cannabis in people’s faces. I’m not sure Canadians necessarily want to see that,” he said.
While selling marijuana to the Canadian public may sound like an effortless task for marketers, Tweed isn’t sitting on its hands.
The Smiths Falls Ont.-based company, which trades on the Toronto Stock Exchange through its parent company Canopy Growth Corp., recently signed a three-year branding deal with marijuana’s unofficial spokesperson, Snoop Dogg, for an undisclosed amount of cash and stock.
Snoop Dogg’s partnership with Tweed gives the company exclusive access to certain content and brands owned by the rapper’s company, LBC Holdings. Whether the new guidelines will allow gin-and-juice flavoured pot to be advertised in Canada has yet to be seen.
Zekulin’s hope for now is that the new packaging rules will allow the public to properly understand his product.
“A lot of Canadians are going to be exposed to cannabis like this for the first time and there needs to be the right information to have a conversation and dialogue to understand cannabis, make informed decisions, and ultimately have an enjoyable experience as opposed to a negative one.”