On October 17, 2018, the Cannabis Act came into force, along with a strict framework for controlling the production, distribution, sale and possession of cannabis in Canada. Its objective is to protect public health and safety and more importantly, to protect the health of anyone under the legal age of 18. The federal government projects that 450,000 customers a day would make up the market, making recreational cannabis in Canada a $900 million industry. Analysts predict this new industry could ultimately total between $4.9 and $8.7 billion dollars – making the legal cannabis market comparable in size to the hard liquor or wine market. However, confusion around its stringent advertising and promotional guidelines has many printers shutting the door on their chances of grabbing a share of this lucrative market.
Mark Gruchy, an associate with Gittens & Associates in St. John’s, recently wrote in Canadian Lawyer magazine that the act’s confusion and ambiguity (which prohibits packaging or labeling cannabis in a way that appeals to youth), stems less from what the legislation says and more from what it doesn’t say. Jessica Moran, director of marketing at Strainprint, the Cannabis Intelligence Company, agrees that the act is confusing for both businesses and people. Strainprint’s sole mission is to help people get the best possible results from their cannabis therapy. Its app gathers real-time scientific data that licensed producers, clinicians and researchers need to grow and prescribe the most effective cannabis-based therapies. They don’t produce, grow or sell cannabis. Nonetheless, they’ve had to rethink traditional marketing and branding awareness strategies. “Traditional branding doesn’t exist here. A large chunk of what has worked in the past has been taken away,” Moran added.
Knowledge is power
Print and marketing solutions providers who want to capture their share of this game-changing market must absorb as much knowledge as possible. Take a cue from our transactional print colleagues, who make it their mission to stay current with legal, privacy and accessibility legislations. Read and understand The Cannabis Act – Bill C-45. Now, more than ever, the folks tasked with promoting their brand could use a helping hand from their print and marketing partners. By simplifying the process, you can spend more time developing new branding and campaign strategies together – and less time worrying about bleeds and traps! Armed with the dos and don’ts of the act, shine a light on your value as a trusted partner by providing direction and guidance. Produce a series of how-to guides such as “tips to ensure your artwork comes out the way it should” or “converting RGB into CMYK: how to properly prep files for print,” etc.
Same channel, new story
One way that mainstream media has adapted to the act is through the creation of age-gated cannabis websites, publications, magazines, newsletters and more. For example, The GrowthOp is Postmedia’s standalone, cannabis-related website with the aptly-titled CannabisPost as its newsletter. “The idea that cannabis publishing and media brands are created is evidence of the legalization and the growing acceptance of it among the mainstream. They’re becoming symbiotic,” said Bethany Moore, communications and projects manager at the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA). With new cannabis-focused media outlets popping up daily, smart businesses are becoming expert storytellers – getting coverage and brand exposure through bylined articles, interviews, news segments, and event coverage in both industry and mainstream publications. According to Strainprint, events are one area where creativity shines through – in printed brochures, product displays and even car wrapping! As long as you’re not selling products (items are for display purposes only and the audience is of legal age), the tradeshow floor is an ideal venue where print reigns supreme.
Push the envelope slowly
One of the biggest frustrations among industry leaders is the lack of education and clarity provided by the government following legalization. But some companies are using this to their advantage and pushing the envelope. As print professionals and advisors, you should appreciate that clients have their own comfort level and offer them peace-of-mind solutions while aligning to their objectives. Show what’s possible – but help them avoid decisions that could hurt them in the long run.
About Joanne Gore
Joanne Gore is a B2B marketer who’s passionate about print and has spent the last three decades helping companies maximize their marketing and communications efforts. Founder of Joanne Gore Communications, she helps companies tell their story to a new generation of print and business buyers. Email: email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter: @joannegore121