Canadians divided on cannabis marketing rules

A survey shows half of the country would prefer advertising restrictions similar to tobacco.

While the majority of Canadians support the impending legalization of recreational cannabis, roughly half would prefer not to see it advertised, according to a recent survey by GfK.

The research firm’s survey found that 51% of Canadians favour a “dark” approach similar to tobacco that prohibits prominent branding or advertising. Only 13% want “open” marketing that has only minor restrictions, though Canadians under the age of 35 were more likely to favour the open model. In the middle of the spectrum, 23% said they’d be in favour of a “somewhat limited” approach that featured restrictions on images that could be used and strong personal safety warnings, while 19% said they lean more towards “somewhat open” approach with some lighter restrictions and product warnings.

The “dark” approach to cannabis regulation is similar to the rules suggested by the federal government’s legalization task force, which called for plain product packaging and marketing only through direct channels.

Earlier this month, a coalition of licensed producers revealed their own proposal for cannabis marketing regulations that had strict rules on where products could be advertised and what could be communicated in the messaging, but still allowed room for brand-building. The coalition stated their proposal would help producers better combat the black market by giving them a greater ability to build their brands and connect with consumers.

GfK also found that 45% of Canadians prefer a private sector approach to the sale of cannabis, be it through existing stores or ones run by newly created, licensed distributors. A public, government-run sales model was supported by 30% of respondents, which was only slightly higher than the 28% who preferred it not be distributed at all.

A “hybrid” version of the private model is what has been tapped in Manitoba and Alberta, while Ontario, New Brunswick and Quebec have opted to go the public route.

For its report, GfK interviewed 1,008 Canadians from across the country between Sept. 20 to 28.