Promoting cannabis on social media? Proceed with caution.

November 21st, 2018

By Sarah Hébert-Tremblay, Lawyer

Numerous cannabis companies are now open for business in Canada since cannabis was legalized on October 17. As part of their promotional efforts, some of those companies will certainly want to use social media, now a virtually indispensable marketing tool.

However, commercial activities associated with cannabis, including its promotion, are highly regulated. Section 17 of the Cannabis Act provides that the use of testimonials and depictions of persons for promotional purposes is prohibited. It therefore seems that companies doing cannabis-related business will not be allowed to work with influencers. In addition, in a very broad way, ads evoking a way of life as one that includes glamour, recreation, excitement, vitality, risk or daring and any advertisement that could be appealing to younger persons in any other ways are prohibited. What can be published on social networks is therefore limited.

Moreover, all informational promotion must be done in a way that minors do not have access to it. Although these techniques are not foolproof, it is relatively easy to limit access to minors to a physical place by requiring identification and to verify the age of the visitors of a website. However, access to social networks is more difficult to manage. Web content creators can rapidly lose control over their material given that it can be shared by all users who have access to it. Therefore, companies in the cannabis industry will have to remain vigilant when it comes to ensuring that all material published on their social media is compliant.

Furthermore, most social network platforms state in their terms of use that the platforms may not be used for illegal purposes. Even more restrictively, Instagram specifies that: “Offering sexual services, buying or selling firearms and illegal or prescription drugs (even if it’s legal in your region) is also not allowed.” Any content not complying with those policies would, as a result, take the risk of being removed.

Finally, caution will have to be the watchword of organizations that want to exploit the potential of social media and special attention will have to be paid to each publication before it is published online.

BCF’s strategic Web team, of which Sarah Hébert-Tremblay is a member, can advise you on the many legal issues that are relevant to your business’s presence on the Internet, including its presence on social media.

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