New Brunswick

Cannabis NB will use public education to promote products

It's not everyday that someone can add "general manager of New Brunswick's first cannabis retail chain" to the old resumé.

General manager of provincial pot retailer hopes to conquer stereotypes about cannabis users

Advertising is all about promoting education and awareness about cannabis, says Lara Wood, general manager of Cannabis NB. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

It's not everyday that someone can add "general manager of New Brunswick's first cannabis retail chain" to the old resumé.

But Lara Wood can. And with her new position as general manager of Cannabis NB comes a wide array of challenges.

One of the main issues is the promotion of the product itself, a task mostly centred on education and public safety.

"As it becomes legal, the priority has to be helping people understand the product … how it works, the effects," said Wood, who will oversee the retail chain, staff and product.

"People who are existing consumers even have to understand how it works in a legal environment."

Wood said there is a limit on traditional advertising and promotion, and more of a push toward responsible use of marijuana and public education. But she expects a wide variety of customers nonetheless. 

"There's going to be people who are experienced consumers from the black market … and I expect there will be some new users," she said. "We have to be prepared for that."

A restricted environment

On Monday, the province released details of a public education campaign called, "I'm in Control," directed at teenagers and other vulnerable groups. 

It consists of social media messages, radio, newspaper, digital and mobile advertisements aimed at informing people about the risks of using cannabis and how to make informed decisions.

"I think we're going to see a very restricted environment around communication at the beginning," Wood said in an interview with Information Morning Fredericton.

"I think it's good to keep things limited and tight and see how the market reacts."   

​Wood said it's important to communicate safe and responsible use of cannabis, what is and isn't legal and the regulation around it.

"That's what people need to know before they start to make decisions," she said.

How it works

But education has its own series of challenges, said Wood, whose resumé also includes work as a senior marketing consultant at Civilized, the cannabis-focused digital media company behind a three-day cannabis conference in Saint John this week.

Wood said marijuana has been illegal for so long, it's resulted in decades of stereotypes and misinformation.

"You don't change those perceptions and correct that information overnight," she said. "It's going to take time."

Cannabis task force leader Anne McLellan spoke at the World Cannabis Congress in Saint John this week. (Rachel Cave/CBC)

After the Senate voted on the federal bill to legalize the drug, the legislation is going back to the House of Commons with 46 amendments, which will have to be approved before the bill returns to the Senate for another vote.

Anne McLellan, a former justice minister in Jean Chrétien's government, said the legislation will likely pass all parliamentary hurdles by the end of June, but she expects a delay in proclaiming the bill.

"It is not about promoting use, it is not about creating an image of cool culture," said McLellan, also the leader of Canada's task force on cannabis at a conference in Saint John this week.

"It's about being responsible, public safety, public health."

When pot does go on sale in New Brunswick legally, the stores will have to manage 200 product identification codes. 

Although the province has said the stores are ready to go, staff have not yet been hired, since it's not clear when the federal act will be implemented. 

With files from Information Morning Fredericton, Rachel Cave