Advertising Prohibitions on Cannabis - Information Bulletin
To Licensed Producers of Cannabis for Medical Purposes
The purpose of this information bulletin is to outline the advertising restrictions to which licensed producers must adhere and to explain the consequences of non-compliance with these requirements.
Cannabis is not an approved drug or medicine in Canada. The Government of Canada does not endorse the use of cannabis, but the courts have required reasonable access to a legal source of cannabis when authorized by a physician.
The Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR), along with the Food and Drugs Act (FDA) and the Narcotic Control Regulations (NCR), define advertisement to include any representation by any means whatever for the purpose of promoting directly or indirectly the sale or disposal of a drug (in the case of the FDA) or a narcotic (with respect to the NCR). Both the FDA and the NCR contain general prohibitions against the advertising of cannabis that licensed producers are required to comply with, including but not limited to:
- FDA s 3. (1) No person shall advertise any food, drug, cosmetic or device to the general public as a treatment, preventative or cure for any of the diseases, disorders or abnormal physical states referred to in Schedule A.
- FDA s 9. (1) No person shall label, package, treat, process, sell or advertise any drug in a manner that is false, misleading or deceptive or is likely to create an erroneous impression regarding its character, value, quantity, composition, merit or safety.
- NCR s 70. No person shall (a) publish or cause to be published or furnish any advertisement respecting a narcotic unless the symbol "N" is clearly and conspicuously displayed in the upper left-hand quarter thereof or, if the advertisement consists of more than one page, on the first page thereof; (b) publish or cause to be published or furnish any advertisement to the general public respecting a narcotic; or (c) advertise in a pharmacy a preparation referred to in section 36.
The purpose of any message by a licensed producer, its content, its context, and its intended audience are all factors to consider when determining whether a message falls within the definition of advertising. Non-promotional information is not considered advertising.
However, the publishing of promotional materials and advertisements are of serious concern. Health Canada is especially concerned about advertisements of any kind which are false, misleading or deceptive, and those which advertise cannabis in relation to particular therapeutic claims. Licensed producers found not to be in compliance with the FDA or the NCR may be subject to compliance and enforcement action by Health Canada.
Please be aware that while Health Canada licenses producers, it does not endorse any particular licensed producer. Licensed producers must refrain from giving the impression that they, their products, or their activities are endorsed by Health Canada. It is the responsibility of licensed producers to ensure that any information they issue complies with all applicable legislative requirements.
If a licensed producer is found to be in contravention of the advertising prohibitions in the FDA, they could be subject to prosecution, and if convicted would be liable to fines ranging from $250,000 to $5,000,000, or to a term of imprisonment ranging from six months to two years, or to both (s.31.2 FDA). Similarly, if a licensed producer is found to be in contravention of s.70 of the NCR, and is convicted of that offence, the fines could range from $1,000 to $5,000 or to a term of imprisonment from six months to three years, or to both (s.46 Controlled Drugs and Substances Act).
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