New Brunswick

Feds 'looking into' whether Cannabis NB website violates advertising rules

Federal legislation prohibits the promotion of cannabis products, accessories or services with a "depiction of a person, character or animal, whether real or fictional."

Federal rules prohibit showing people or depictions suggesting excitement and glamour

People in Fredericton lined up outside a Cannabis NB store to buy legal recreational marijuana on Wednesday. (Photo: Ed Hunter/CBC)

The federal government is looking into whether the Cannabis NB website violates advertising rules.

Tammy Jarbeau, a spokeswoman for Health Canada, confirmed in a brief email that the department is "looking into" the New Brunswick website that sells cannabis. ​Jarbeau did not say what prompted the review or how long it may take.

Cannabis NB says it is open to changing the website if required.

The website includes photos showing a group of people smiling and taking a selfie, a woman in a yoga pose and a man working. 

The website also includes step-by-step directions on rolling a joint to smoke cannabis.

The federal Cannabis Act prohibits any promotion of cannabis, accessories or service related to cannabis with a "depiction of a person, character or animal, whether real or fictional."

A screenshot of a section of the Cannabis NB website.

It also bars promotion that evokes an emotion or image of "a way of life such as one that includes glamour, recreation, excitement, vitality, risk or daring."

The law also prohibits promoting cannabis in a way that could reasonably be considered appealing to young people.

'No grey there'

Trina Fraser, a lawyer with the firm Brazeau Seller Law in Ottawa, has examined the website.

"I just don't see how they comply with the promotional restrictions in the Cannabis Act," Fraser said. 

"It 100 per cent depicts people — there's no grey there," she said. She's told her clients, including licensed cannabis producers, not to use any images of people. 

CBC requested an interview with Cannabis NB, though only an emailed statement was provided. 

Marie-Andrée Bolduc said in an email the website focuses on public education. 

Open to change

"Naturally, we expect Health Canada to be interested in what all jurisdictions are doing, and we look forward to having continued discussions with them," Bolduc stated. 

"We are open to receiving feedback from the public, provincial and federal officials and modify the content accordingly if required."

Premier Brian Gallant told reporters Wednesday that it would be unfortunate if a Crown corporation is breaking the law. He said recreational cannabis legalization is new and everyone may need time to get things right. 

A screenshot of a page on the Cannabis NB website. Health Canada says it is 'looking into' whether the website violates sections of the federal Cannabis Act related to promotions.

A page on the Cannabis NB website outlines various ways people can consume cannabis. The group photo is on a page with the headline "connect."

"Although many consume cannabis alone, more and more are getting together with friends for different occasions," the website states.

"It could be the weekly poker game, girls' night out, or a concert with the whole group. It could even be video chatting with your friends from the comfort of your own home."

Corrections

  • A previous version this story incorrectly identified Trina Fraser as Trina Harris.
    Oct 17, 2018 5:21 PM AT

With files from Colleen Kitts-Goguen and Jacques Poitras

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