FEB 01, 2023 8:23 AM PST

American and Canadian Cannabis Advertising Regulations Show Lack of Consistency in the US

WRITTEN BY: Kerry Charron

A University at Buffalo study that compared cannabis marketing policies in Canada and in various U.S. states found significant differences in advertising strategies. Most state marketing regulations lack clarity regarding illegal advertising tactics, while Canada offers clear policies about prohibited tactics. 

The researchers reviewed Health Canada’s 2018 Cannabis Act and 2019 Cannabis Regulations and compared those guidelines with the U.S. state cannabis marketing regulations. Canada’s Cannabis Act offers structured guidance for marketing communications, and one critical focus is the prevention of the targeting of vulnerable populations such as minors. 

Canada’s stricter approach means its policy extensively and comprehensively outlines and prohibits 18 marketing strategies at a national level. Specific banned strategies include false claims, offering coupons, appealing to minors, promoting health or beauty cures, endorsements and testimonials, and association with alcohol or tobacco products.

Since there is no U.S. federal policy, cannabis advertising regulations vary greatly across the U.S. Some states prohibit advertising altogether, and others issue minimal or vague regulations. Of the 31 states included in the study that did allow cannabis advertising, 74% explicitly prohibit targeting or appealing to minors and 68% prohibit making false or misleading claims. Roughly over half the states have restrictions on the placement of advertisements, and 42% restrict building signage.

The researchers echo a concern shared by many cannabis advocates and business owners that the lack of cannabis marketing guidance can be confusing and frustrating. Business owners are also at increased risk of disciplinary action or fees for unintentional violations. 

In addition, the lack of guidance increases the risk for public health risks, such as indirectly appealing to youth or spreading false claims. Previous research on alcohol, cigarettes and e-cigarettes indicates that youth who are exposed to marketing messaging about these substances are more likely to try them or increase use, so the research team believes that a similar effect can happen with cannabis marketing. 

As more states legalize medical and recreational cannabis and momentum for federal reform grows, cannabis business owners are exploring programmatic advertising solutions to increase operational productivity, consumer safety, and regulatory transparency. The researchers recommend that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approve any health benefit claims made in cannabis advertising and take a more active role in monitoring and preventing false and misleading claims.

Sources: Eureka News Alert, Journal of Cannabinoid And Cannabis Research 


About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Kerry Charron writes about medical cannabis research. She has experience working in a Florida cultivation center and has participated in advocacy efforts for medical cannabis.
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