Ont. pot producer Aphria launches new brand ahead of legalization
U.S. dispensaries have strict advertising rules as they target 'canna-curious' people
Even before recreational marijuana is legal in Canada and the rules around advertising are fully developed, a licensed pot producer in Leamington, Ont. is targeting your senses with six 'cannabis experiences.'
In the days leading up to today's 4/20 pot celebrations, which will likely be the last before the planned cannabis legalization by the summer, Aphria introduced a new marijuana brand. It's called Solei Sungrown Cannabis and will be designed for the new adult-use market.
"Many users were waiting for a green light to dive into the cannabis segment and we also knew that stigma would be melting away relatively quickly," said Megan McCrae, Aphria's vice president of marketing and communications, about research the company conducted.
Its bright and descriptive website showcases six types of marijuana they refer to as "new experiences" that will allow "current and novice users alike to control and enrich their cannabis journey."
- Dream — "Rediscover that cozy feeling of getting tucked in."
- Unwind — A "way to unplug and slow down after a long day."
- Soothe — "Your day at the spa, without the hefty bill."
- Balance — "Skip the yoga class and still find your zen."
- Ignite — "Find your person and find your spark ... no bottle of wine needed."
- Gather — "Forget the group message, and rediscover the real meaning of a group chat."
Advertising recreational pot is considered a grey area right now because there aren't any specific government regulations in place. Health Canada has a proposed approach based on public consultations, but nothing is set in stone.
"There are general marketing rules that we are obviously abiding by," said McCrae.
Aside from its website and social media page, Aphria will embark on even more marijuana marketing "as permitted by law" once the federal government formalizes rules around advertising.
Pot advertising a grey area
CBC News has contacted Health Canada to see whether or not Aphria and its Solei brand are allowed to advertise recreational pot online ahead of legalization. At the time of this publication Health Canada has yet to respond to CBC's request.
However, a St. Clair College marketing professor agrees with Aphria's approach to offer an experience with a product like pot, instead of simply pushing a price or type.
I think it's still pretty early to look at if it's too friendly or not.- Nicole Rourke, marketing professor at St. Clair College
Nicole Rourke previously worked in marketing for major alcohol companies in both Canada and the U.S. Creating booze advertisements is an area extremely regulated, requiring Rourke to get a corporate lawyer's stamp of approval for each one.
"I think it's still pretty early to look at if it's too friendly or not," said Rourke, referring to the Solei branding. "It was interesting because they really seemed to take a spa-like approach to their marketing and the colours. The packaging is very intriging."
Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada was unwilling to comment on Aphria's marijuana marketing material.
Although they suggest cannabis users wait four to six hours from consumption time before thinking about driving.
Cannabis ads strict in the U.S.
For a jurisdiction such as Colorado, where recreational marijuana has been legal since 2012, there are many rules around how dispensaries can market products.
Native Roots dispensary tries to attract a segment of the population it calls 'canna-curious' — people who are interested in pot, but may have never consumed the drug.
Do I think they're fair? I do.- Scott Chavkin, Native Roots dispensary in Colorado
However, they must ensure 70 per cent of the people viewing a cannabis advertisement must be at least 21, the legal age to consume. That means no billboards or bus stations and broadcast ads are very limited.
They also cannot target anyone outside of the state of Colorado. Instead, they often purchase ads in newspapers or weekly magazines.
"Do I think they're fair? I do," said Scott Chavkin, director of marketing for Native Roots.
"I think Colorado has done a great job in carving a path forward for cannabis businesses that balances the public good and the business needs."