Cannabis NB to make website 'adjustments' after feds find it breaks ad laws

Cannabis NB says it will make "adjustments" to its website after Health Canada found it's breaking the law by depicting people and associating cannabis with a particular lifestyle.

Newly-launched website shows images of people socializing, taking selfies and doing yoga

A screenshot from the Cannabis NB website

Cannabis NB says it will make "adjustments" to its website after Health Canada found it's breaking the law by depicting people and associating cannabis with a particular lifestyle.

Thierry Bélair, press secretary for the Office of the Minister of Health, said Friday some of the newly-launched website's promotional material is "not in compliance" with the Cannabis Act.

The website shows photos of a group of people smiling and taking a selfie, a woman doing yoga and a man reading.

A page entitled "Connect" says cannabis can be consumed with friends as part of "the weekly poker game, girls' night out, or a concert with the whole group."

"The law clearly prohibits promotions that associate cannabis with a particular way of life such as glamour, recreation, excitement or vitality," Bélair said in an email.

"It also prohibits promotions for cannabis that use a picture or image of any person, whether real or fictional.‎"

Bélair did not indicate exactly which parts of the website violate the Cannabis Act, and did not say whether there will be penalties.

But he did say Health Canada officials have been in touch with New Brunswick officials about the website.

"They have advised them that some of their promotional material is not in compliance with those rules," he said.

Will align content with intent of legislation

Cannabis NB spokesperson Mark Barbour said no fines or tickets have been issued, and talks with Health Canada officials have been "amicable."

They "did not offer explicit direction as to what changes should be made but rather offered their broad perspective on the website."

The Cannabis NB website also includes several educational articles. (Cannabis NB)

Cannabis NB has also "sought legal guidance" on how to interpret the Cannabis Act, said Barbour.

"As is the case in many instances, legislation is subject to interpretation which can vary," he said in an email.

Cannabis NB will be reviewing its website in the coming weeks and will "make a few adjustments to align the content with the intent of the legislation," said Barbour.

He did not say what those adjustments will be, or whether they will affect other forms of advertising, such as posters.

"I wouldn't necessarily say we would be taking stuff down but it would probably still be updating particular sections," he said.

A screenshot from the Cannabis NB website showing a group of people. The website has since been 'adjusted,' Harriman said, to avoid associating cannabis with a particular lifestyle.

The website and content were created in-house at Cannabis NB, said Barbour.

Development started a year ago, before the federal regulations were tabled, he said.

Health Canada began looking into the website on Monday, when the website went live, after media reports about the website came out.

"We expect all participants in this new market to follow the law and Health Canada will continue to monitor the market and enforce the rules on a case by case basis," Bélair said.