Social Media and Cannabis - Know the Rules!
At Cannabiz Social, we work with a variety of cannabis related businesses looking for clarification about the rules surrounding the promotion of their products and services. Unfortunately, current laws are vague, confusing and open to interpretation and so far, Health Canada has not provided a lot of public direction. The marketing and sponsorship activities that some companies embarked on ahead of October 17, 2018 has certainly made the situation more confusing.
You can take a look at the full list of dos and don’ts by reading through and piecing together sections from the Cannabis Act and Regulation, as well as the Narcotic Control Regulation and other federal and provincial statutes, but let us save you the trouble of deciphering and tell you the one thing you can do: provide information that helps consumers to make informed decisions about the consumption of cannabis. In other words, you can educate people using factual information about your products and services. This means no unproven claims about health or wellness benefits, of any sort, and no statement outside of pure, good ol’ fashioned fact. While not an exhaustive list, here are some examples of do’s and don’ts:
Talk about your CBD/THC/terpene levels, product or service features
Talk about how your product is produced, your quality assurance
Talk about your facilities, your team, your missions and vision
Communicate info about price or distribution
Post anything that could be believed to be appealing to a young person
Contain a testimonial or endorsement (no, Lindsey Lohan can’t be your spokesperson)
Post anything depicting a person, character or animal whether real or fictional (what does that leave though? Basically, text and inanimate objects are ok)
Post anything showing a way of life that can be associated with glamour, recreating, excitement, vitality, risk or daring
The Cannabis Act has left companies with one promotional morsel– Informational Promotion. You can send informational promotion that is addressed and sent to an individual who is 18 (or 19 depending on the province) years or older and is identified by name. You can also communicate to an audience where underage people are prohibited by law (some bars prohibit minors, but certainly not all), by telecommunication where reasonable steps have been taken to ensure that promotional material can’t be accessed by a young person.
But how do these rules apply to social media? Social media, paid or not, may be considered a form of promotion, so the same rules apply.
Each social platform has their own rules or “community standards” surrounding “drugs”. Facebook, for example:
[TLDR – Facebook and Instagram rules state a company can’t promote the sale or consumption of cannabis, but can promote advocacy and education]
Facebook states under the “Do Not Post’ section, the following:
Coordinates or encourages others to sell non-medical drugs
Depicts, admits to, or promotes sales of non-medical drugs by the poster of the content or their associates
Promotes, encourages, coordinates, or provides instructions for use of non-medical drugs
Admits, either in writing or verbally, to personal use of non-medical drugs unless posted in a recovery context
Content that depicts the sale or attempt to purchase marijuana and pharmaceutical drugs. This includes content that:
Mentions or depicts marijuana or pharmaceutical drugs
Makes an attempt to sell or trade, by which we mean any of the following:
Explicitly mentioning the product is for sale or trade or delivery
Asking the audience to buy
Listing the price
Encouraging contact about the product either by explicitly asking to be contacted or including any type of contact information
Attempting to solicit the product, defined as:
Stating interest in buying the product, or
Asking if anyone has the product for sale/trade
This applies to both individual pieces of content and Pages and Groups primarily dedicated to the sale of marijuana or pharmaceutical drugs
So what CAN you do?
Use staff accounts to share info, rather than corporate accounts. Encourage your staff to get involved with your brand on social media, of course you can’t force them to, but it shouldn’t be too hard considering it’s an industry most people are very proud to be a part of.
Get educational. Use your platforms to share cannabis science and news. It can establish you as an expert and you might be surprised as to how interested your audience may be in this information..
Talk about your product in scientific terms. If you have a new strain you are absolutely allowed to talk about its unique properties and the process in which it was grown. Be extra careful to not make any claims about the benefits of the product though.
Sure, it’s hard to see clear ways around the strict regulations laid out in the Cannabis Act when it comes to promotion, but you still have more traditional ways of reaching your audiences. Your website is unrestricted), word of mouth is still the best way to attract customers, do media outreach (give the media a story they can’t resist), and get involved in the cannabis communities in your city.
And hey, if you’re still finding yourself at a loss, give us a shout and we can walk you through it all.