Canada’s marijuana packaging rules blasted as ‘unscientific,’ ‘fearmongering’

A sample of Canada’s proposed recreational cannabis packaging.

A day after Canada released detailed packaging requirements for recreational cannabis, executives and analysts warned that the rules are so restrictive that the government is risking a “policy fail.”

The new regulations, in many ways, are more restrictive than the packaging rules for tobacco, a disappointment for marijuana companies that had been lobbying for rules that would allow for clear branding of their products.

Industry observers are concerned the policy will make it harder for companies to carve out meaningful market share from the black market after recreational marijuana is legalized later this summer.

“The central objective of legalization is to replace the vast and sophisticated black market with a regulated and safer one,” Aurora Chief Corporate Officer Cam Battley told BNN.

“By restricting our branding and treating us more like tobacco than beer and liquor, that will hold us back from being able to establish the brand.

“We’ve got to take a more rational approach to this and be more scientific.”

The government proposes all recreational cannabis be sold in packaging that:

  • Has no graphics.
  • Displays one of 14 health warnings.
  • Contains a background with a single, uniform color.
  • Restricts fonts to a small size and uniform color.
  • Restricts brand logos to a small size.
  • Restricts brand name text to a small size and uniform color.

Justin Cooper, co-founder and CEO of Green Planet Wholesale, said the packaging requirements are inconsistent with the government’s public policy goal of overtaking the black market.

“A stop sign with THC on it? Get serious. It’s fearmongering,” he said. “It’s going to be federally legal.

“Have you ever bought a bottle of booze with a stop sign on it?”

The rules also call for only one “brand element” on the package, also restricted in size, in addition to the brand name.

Ian Dawkins, principal consultant of British Columbia-based Althing Consulting, said the rules “will disproportionately hurt the legitimate players who have invested in their brands.”

The regulations, separate from the marijuana legalization bill currently before the Senate, will be enacted after the Cannabis Act wins final approval.

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