This Thursday (April 13), Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government will introduce legislation to legalize recreational marijuana across Canada. But the as-yet unveiled bill is already getting mixed reviews from prospective recreational marijuana retailers, who think the government's regulations on pot packaging will be too strict.
Earlier today, Daniel Leblanc of The Globe and Mail reported that the legalization bill will likely require companies to sell cannabis in plain packages similar to the ones proposed for tobacco products. Basically, the government thinks that removing colors, logos and other marketing devices from cigarette packs would make tobacco products less appealing to Canadians. That means Trudeau and his ministers plan to treat cannabis more like tobacco and less like alcohol, which isn't subject to the same regulations.
“It would be hard to imagine a scenario where you could sell pot like you could sell booze,” an anonymous government official told The Globe and Mail.
The plain-packaging regulation was first proposed by Canada's marijuana task force last December.
Labelling could become a major sticking point between the government and Canada's licensed producers (LPs) - legal medical marijuana growers that are expected to move into the recreational cannabis industry once it's legal in Canada. Last month, the heads of 7 LPs - Tilray, Tweed, Mettrum, CannTrust, Green Organic Dutchman Holdings, RedeCan Pharm and Delta 9 Bio-Tech - sent a letter calling on the government to let them brand cannabis products as they see fit.
The LPs say that branding and advertising will be essential weapons in the fight against the black market for marijuana.
“Packaging debates are often driven by public health concerns but in order to develop well-rounded public policy, rules surrounding packaging and in-store promotion must take into account the current status of the large, illegal cannabis black market and the harms it causes youth and society more generally,” they wrote in the letter.
“Therefore, there must be allowances for branding as well as for in-store advertising of cannabis products to ensure that consumers who have already self-selected to enter a legal cannabis retailer will be well-informed about the products they are purchasing.”
Tilray CEO Brendan Kennedy added that he and his colleagues won't repeat the tobacco industry's mistakes.
“No one in this industry is looking to repeat the same mistakes as tobacco or alcohol,” he wrote in the letter. “No one wants to see a Joe Camel of this industry,” he added, referring to the defunct mascot that allegedly encouraged children to smoke.
After introducing the bill this Thursday, the legislation will be turned over to committees that will study and perhaps revise it. So LP's still have a chance to convince the government that marijuana marketers can regulate themselves.