Cannabis legalization has finally arrived here in Canada! Although the first few weeks have been relatively uneventful, there are still lots of questions around what lies ahead. From a marketing perspective, here are 3 things we anticipate will happen due to the legalization of cannabis:
1. A Rise in Cannabis Tourism
Over the years, the Netherlands has been regarded as one of the world’s premier destinations for cannabis tourism. Cannabis is illegal there but ‘tolerated’ with certain conditions. So it’s kinda legal, sort of. The tourism board in the Netherlands estimates that 1.5 million tourists visit every year to consume cannabis, making up 25-30% of visitors. That’s a lot of visitors… and tourism revenue.
Canada will most likely see an uptick in the number of visitors from all over the world, particularly those in close proximity such as our neighbours south of the border. There is no denying the potential of such economic activity in the tourism industry over the coming years. After the legalization of cannabis in Colorado, the state has continuously seen record numbers in tourism every year with pot being a major drawing card. The welcoming marijuana laws influenced nearly 49% of vacation decisions to the state and generated $2.4bn for the Colorado economy. Tourism marketing will be a very interesting and competitive space in the coming years. Marketers will find ways to make legalization count for tourism and other industries too. Marketing as a science tends to evolve rapidly being a microcosm of the surrounding environment.
2. Advertising Rules in Canada Will Change – But it Will Take Time
When a landmark occurrence takes place such as legalization of cannabis in Canada, it forces everyone to take a look at rules, regulations and policies. Although this is likely to take some time, the rules are set to change eventually because legalization opens up the conversation more widely with real-life examples. This is the current position the Canadian government is taking on promoting/advertising cannabis. In a nutshell, they say “Unless authorized under the Cannabis Act, it is prohibited to promote cannabis or a cannabis accessory or any service related to cannabis…” Basically, you can’t really promote cannabis.
In our corner of digital marketing, Facebook is one platform that takes its advertising rules very seriously and regularly updates their policies to reflect the laws according to province/state and country. Here is Facebook’s current stance on cannabis at the time of writing this article:
Depending on how the rules change over time, there will likely be an interesting opportunity for Canadian marketers and advertisers in the future – especially before the novelty of being an early-adopter wears off and other countries start joining the party. All the major online advertising portals have to look at the best way forward concerning cannabis marketing and ads. With time, Canadian marketers dealing with cannabis companies and products have a significant head start in figuring out how to best market different types of cannabis products over other countries. It will all have to be within the rules though. Rules that different stakeholders couldn’t quite agree on pertaining to the looming legalization earlier this year. Canada as a pioneer will provide a template for many other countries to follow.
3. Edible Marijuana Products Will Continue To Present Challenges
As expected, at this point in time, edibles aren’t part of the legalization in Canada. They are still banned with a view to be legalized in the next year or so.
Edibles present significant challenges for the regulators because of potential health implications, marijuana intoxication and lack of agreeable regulatory steps to ensure they can be used responsibly and don’t fall into the wrong hands such as children. There are just too many grey areas right now. Lawmakers and government bodies need time to consider the best way forward. Until such a time that they do become legal, which is still a while away, the opportunities for those in marketing and advertising concerning edibles aren’t much to write home about.