A Look at AGCO Cannabis Marketing Rules for Retailers

AGCO cannabis dispensary

To attract new and returning customers, businesses need to be able to advertise. However, advertising for cannabis businesses can be a challenge given how tightly regulated the industry is. If you’re considering a career in cannabis, it’s important to know how marketing rules may affect you.

Because legal cannabis is a new industry, regulations are evolving. Below we will look at what regulations currently say about cannabis-related marketing and how you can carve out a space to attract customers.

What Advertising Is Prohibited Under Health Canada Rules?

There are a number of advertising activities that Health Canada prohibits for cannabis companies, including but not limited to:

  • Promoting cannabis, cannabis accessories, or cannabis-related services
  • Making advertisements that appeal to or are likely to be seen by youth
  • Making misleading, false, or deceptive claims
  • Sponsorships
  • Naming sports or cultural facilities
  • Inducements like contests in exchange for buying cannabis

Furthermore, promotions cannot associate cannabis or cannabis accessories with “glamour, recreation, risk, excitement or daring behaviours or a positive or negative emotion.”

Advertisements that are likely to be seen by youth, like billboards, are prohibited

Advertisements that are likely to be seen by youth, like billboards, are prohibited

How Can AGCO Cannabis Retail Licence Holders Advertise?

Those are a lot of things cannabis retailers in Ontario can’t do to promote themselves. So what can they do? What’s permissible is currently a grey area, especially since many of the prohibitions are vague. For example, how does one judge if an advertisement promotes “glamour”? That’s a question that will likely be answered by courts and policymakers over time.

Meanwhile, two types of promotions that Health Canada does permit are informational promotions and brand-preference promotions, so long as neither is visible or likely to be visible to youth. An informational promotion is a promotion where only factual information is given to the consumer. This can include facts about:

  • Cannabis, cannabis accessories, or their characteristics
  • Cannabis-related services
  • Price and availability of cannabis, a cannabis accessory, or cannabis-related service

Informational promotions are where your training in AGCO cannabis regulations will prove especially useful, since in your program you will learn about the science of cannabis. An informational promotion, for example, could include a blog post where you talk about how cannabis is grown and harvested.

Informational promotions, such as blogs, that relay only facts about cannabis are permitted

Informational promotions, such as blogs, that relay only facts about cannabis are permitted

Cannabis Retailers Can Build Brand Loyalty with Brand-Preference Promotions

Brand-preference promotions, meanwhile, give AGCO cannabis retail licence holders another way to promote their businesses. This category allows companies to promote cannabis, cannabis accessories, or cannabis-related services by means of the company’s “brand characteristics.”

What constitutes a “brand characteristic” is a bit unclear, but many analysts see it as permitting logos and slogans, so long as they don’t contravene any of Health Canada’s previously mentioned prohibitions. For example, advertising one’s logo in a nightclub where minors aren’t permitted is something that is likely acceptable under the rules.

Also, Health Canada permits cannabis companies to display a brand element (like a logo) on items other than cannabis-related products so long as the item is not appealing to young persons and isn’t associated with a positive or exciting way of life.

So, while cannabis advertising rules are restrictive, they do give creative entrepreneurs room to promote their businesses.

Despite the restrictions, creative business owners can find ways to promote their stores

Despite the restrictions, creative business owners can find ways to promote their stores

Want to learn more about getting your AGCO cannabis dispensary licence?

Contact the Academy of Applied Pharmaceutical Sciences for more information about our programs.