Canadian Cannabis: Marketing Challenges in the Great White North

by Will

Oh, Canada!

When it comes to the developing Cannabis Industry, things seem like the wild west here in parts of the United States (including, I might add, the actual West).  As we’ve seen with the recent and abrupt changes to the CBD product laws in New Hampshire and Massachusetts and the ever-evolving laws surrounding compliance in Adult-use Cannabis, it can be challenging to stay ahead of the curve.  With the federal legalization of Cannabis in Canada, you can imagine that there are plenty of plates to keep spinning.  Let’s go through some of the challenges our neighbors to the north face when marketing their canna-brand.

Challenges Canadian Cannabis Faces

Digital logistics is a big one.  Without the proper online infrastructure, it’s likely that many canna-co’s will encounter down-time, outages, and mixed-up or lost orders. The Ontario Cannabis Store accepted 100,000 orders in the first 24 hours after legalization, and because of how badly the Province underestimated demand, many customers had  to deal with late deliveries and shipping errors not to mention website crashes.  With an estimated $6.5B value by 2020, it’s clear that this is something the industry will have to face head on.

What’s up with Advertising, eh?

The rules for advertising/marketing Cannabis are similar to tobacco products, which bans mass advertising and makes it illegal to do things like market to young people, provide brand endorsements, or testimonials, or present products in a way that associates them with a way of life “that includes glamour, recreation, excitement, vitality, risk or daring.”  Further more, showing your product with either a “positive or negative” emotional tie is a big no-no… Well, that’s pretty confusing.   Read the Canadian Cannabis Act for more detailed clarification (and hire a good lawyer).

Facebook and Google Are Off Limits

The day legalization passed in Canada, we reached out to someone at Google to find out whether or not they would change their policies around marketing Cannabis through AdWords, and unfortunately they said they didn’t have any plans to update those rules on their Terms of Service.  Cannabis breaks a few rules for them:

  • Ads for substances that alter mental state for the purpose of recreation or otherwise induce “highs”
    Examples: Cocaine, crystal meth, heroin and other illegal opioids, marijuana, cocaine substitutes, mephedrone, “legal highs”
  • Ads for products or services marketed as facilitating recreational drug use
    Examples: Pipes, bongs, cannabis coffee shops
  • Ads for instructional content about producing, purchasing, or using recreational drugs
    Examples: Forums to exchange tips or recommendations on drug use

Similarly, Facebook also don’t want none of that.  Facebook currently bans any mentions or displays of CBD, hemp, or pot that attempt to sell, trade or barter the drug, which is legal for recreational use Canada and some states, though it is prohibited by the U.S. federal government. You can view their Terms of Service on that subject HERE.

No One Wants to Admit They Ate 9 Cans of Ravioli

Despite these challenges, there are easy steps to take to ensure that your Canadian Cannabis company is compliant, and can handle the huge customer demand.

Start with your image.  This is an easy variable to have control over.  The design team at CannaPlanners has worked tirelessly to ensure that we’re doing our part to push the industry away from the stigmas it faces and more towards a normalized, rational marketplace.  We accomplish this by providing quality, professional design services that follow the guidelines specific to the State or Province where that brand operates.  Take a look at some of our work to get a sense of what this feels like.

Giving your customers the best online experience is vital.  As Canadian brick and mortars begin opening in the coming months, it’s critical that online ordering stays up and running, that your menus are always current and consistent, and that your traffic converts to customers.  Perhaps you saw our article on why managed host servers are so awesome, it explains that housing your website on our secure environment ensures the speed and security of your CannaPlanners website.  Our managed host server is dedicated to only WordPress websites, and even more specifically only CannaPlanners WordPress websites.  This allows our tech-team to push out important global and plugin updates, focus on security, and keep everything streamlined and fast.

Web Design is also a key factor to remaining compliant.  Having the input of your web design team on what elements are used to create your CannaPlanners website is going to ensure that you’re not wading in murky waters.  Look good!


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