Colourful pot products raise questions

Colourful pot products raise questions
Cannabis NB to make website adjustments after feds find it breaks ad laws
Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu rises in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Friday, May 6, 2016. (Adrian Wyld/ The Canadian Press)

OTTAWA — Scroll through Ontarios online cannabis shop and youll see strains of marijuana called Banana Split and Tangerine Dream.

The names appear on packages even though the federal Cannabis Act is meant to discourage kids from using pot by prohibiting products that appeal to youth.

The law also forbids packaging or labelling cannabis in a way that is attractive to the demographic.

Thierry Belair, a spokesman for Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor, said the department will continue to monitor the market and enforce the rules on a case-by-case basis now that recreational cannabis use is legal.

"The law clearly prohibits promotions that associate cannabis with a particular way of life such as glamour, recreation, excitement or vitality, and that includes cannabis strains descriptions," said Belair.

The government expects all participants, including provinces, territories and those in the cannabis industry, to follow the law, he added.

It means that not every bit of branding will necessarily stick, because if someone complains about a name Health Canada could ask the licensed producer to change it.

Gladu says the Liberal government needs to do more to ensure cannabis products available online are not enticing to kids.

"The sprit of the regulation was that they did not want the packaging in any way to be attractive to young people," she said.

David Hammond, a professor in the school of public health at the University of Waterloo, said dessert-oriented names like Banana Split are going to appeal to young people.

"There are so many different options out there for describing your brand," he said. "Surely the industry is more creative that they dont need to either skirt or cross the boundaries for things like naming it with dessert names."

Cannabis NB says it will make "adjustments" to its website after Health Canada found it's breaking the law by depicting people and associating cannabis with a particular lifestyle.

Thierry Bélair, press secretary for the Office of the Minister of Health, said Friday some of the newly-launched website's promotional material is "not in compliance" with the Cannabis Act.

The website shows photos of a group of people smiling and taking a selfie, a woman doing yoga and a man reading.

A page entitled "Connect" says cannabis can be consumed with friends as part of "the weekly poker game, girls' night out, or a concert with the whole group."

"The law clearly prohibits promotions that associate cannabis with a particular way of life such as glamour, recreation, excitement or vitality," Bélair said in an email.

"It also prohibits promotions for cannabis that use a picture or image of any person, whether real or fictional.‎"

Bélair did not indicate exactly which parts of the website violate the Cannabis Act, and did not say whether there will be penalties.

But he did say Health Canada officials have been in touch with New Brunswick officials about the website.

"They have advised them that some of their promotional material is not in compliance with those rules," he said.

Cannabis NB spokesperson Mark Barbour said no fines or tickets have been issued, and talks with Health Canada officials have been "amicable."

They "did not offer explicit direction as to what changes should be made but rather offered their broad perspective on the website."

Cannabis NB has also "sought legal guidance" on how to interpret the Cannabis Act, said Barbour.

"As is the case in many instances, legislation is subject to interpretation which can vary," he said in an email.

Cannabis NB will be reviewing its website in the coming weeks and will "make a few adjustments to align the content with the intent of the legislation," said Barbour.

He did not say what those adjustments will be, or whether they will affect other forms of advertising, such as posters.

"I wouldn't necessarily say we would be taking stuff down but it would probably still be updating particular sections," he said.

Health Canada began looking into the website on Monday, when the website went live, after media reports about the website came out.

"We expect all participants in this new market to follow the law and Health Canada will continue to monitor the market and enforce the rules on a case by case basis," Bélair said.

It is a priority for CBC to create a website that is accessible to all Canadians including people with visual, hearing, motor and cognitive challenges.