British Columbia

Moviegoer 'shocked' to see cannabis ad at VIP theatre — but Cineplex says it doesn't break any rules

A Metro Vancouver man says he was dismayed to see an advertisement for a cannabis company showing at a Cineplex theatre and wants to see the ads pulled.

Cinema company and Canopy Growth say ads introduced last year comply with all federal regulations

Health Canada has strict rules when it comes to advertising cannabis, which differ from alcohol advertising. Cineplex says the cannabis ads comply with federal rules. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

A Metro Vancouver man says he was dismayed to see an advertisement for a cannabis company showing at a Cineplex theatre, and wants to see the ads pulled.

But Cineplex says the advertisements for cannabis company Canopy Growth have been showing in VIP theatres across Canada since last year, and they comply with all federal regulations.

On July 5, Chris Whelan went to see a movie at the Cineplex VIP cinema in Coquitlam. Before the trailers, he said an advertisement was played that showed someone using a silver tube to roll a joint.

"I was somewhat shocked to see that, sitting in a movie theatre," Whelan said, adding he thinks the ads shouldn't be shown in movie theatres.

"We were brought up thinking that this is something you don't do openly and to have it displayed in front of you like that in a movie theatre seemed inappropriate. It surprised me that they would be allowed to do it at all."

Complies with federal rules

Stringent rules around advertising were developed when cannabis was legalized last year. The federal government says these rules are to protect the public and young people. 

Both Cineplex and Canopy Growth, an Ontario-based producer, say the ad in question abides by all of them. 

The movie theatre has had an agreement with the company since late last year to show advertisements in its VIP cinemas across Canada, spokesperson Sarah Van Lange said. These are cinemas that serve alcohol and more upscale food to an adults-only audience. 

"These spots only appear in our VIP Cinemas auditoriums where both our guests and staff are of legal age of majority; they do not appear on-screen in any of our traditional theatres," Van Lange said in an email.

A Cineplex VIP theatre at Marine Gateway in Vancouver. Cineplex says it has shown an advertisement from a cannabis company at the adults-only cinemas since late last year. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

No complaints so far, says company

Whelan said he contacted Cineplex on Tuesday to complain about the advertisement. Van Lange could not immediately confirm if Cineplex had ever received complaints about the advertisement.

The federal government's rules for cannabis advertising differ from alcohol advertising, although a Health Canada spokesperson was not available to comment on the regulations.

According to Health Canada's website, cannabis advertisements cannot depict people, animals or animated characters — real or fictional.

In addition, cannabis advertisements cannot explicitly make the product appealing to young people or show the product in a way that glamourizes it or evokes emotions of "excitement, vitality, risk or daring."

In an email, Canopy Growth spokeswoman Samantha Spence said the company has received no complaints about the ad. 

She declined to provide a copy or link of the ad to CBC News. 

Whelan said he would be less offended if he saw an advertisement for alcohol on the silver screen.

But since most forms of tobacco advertisements are not legal, Whelan wonders why cannabis advertising is. 

"We've been brought up to be more accepting of alcohol and accepting of alcohol. But I'm not a smoker and I'm not a marijuana user. I wouldn't want to see a tobacco-rolling ad either. I wouldn't want to see that," he said.

"I don't think it should be shown in theatres like that."

Cineplex spokeswoman Sarah Van Lange says the advertisements are not shown at the chain's traditional theatres, where audience members of all ages are welcome. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

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