Canada: After Cannabis Company Appears On Grad Program, Province To Expand Sponsorship Rules

Photo Credit: Anglophone North School District

The Anglophone North School District superintendent says printing the Zenabis logo on a high school graduation program was an error in judgment, and the company didn’t ask for the promotion.

Superintendent Mark Donovan said Sugarloaf High School wanted to be “transparent” about who donated to the graduation ceremony and to thank the donors by putting their logos on the program.

Donovan said the Campbellton school canvasses local businesses for donations to support the graduation ceremony and prizes.

The school received a $1,000 donation from medical cannabis producer Zenabis, which will also be a supplier of recreational cannabis when it goes on sale in New Brunswick in the fall.

“No questions were raised, to be quite honest and fair, until today when the story broke,” he said, after the Zenabis logo on the program provoked a flurry of comments on social media.

Donovan was surprised by the reaction but said he understands the reasons for it.

“I liken it to a liquor control board using their logo for school-related advertising or a school program,” he said. “We would never allow that.

“Anything that’s intended for adult use, we would not support that. It’s clear there was an error in judgment here but we’re all feeling our way with this new cannabis legislation.”

Policy amendments

It’s not clear whether it was illegal for the logo to appear on the program.

The only relevant regulation in the provincial Cannabis Control Act says “only the producer can promote cannabis,” according to Department of Finance spokesperson Sarah Bustard.

Education Minister Brian Kenny said the province also regrets the appearance of the Zenabis name on the program.

He said a provincial policy that prohibits alcohol and tobacco sponsorships will be expanded to include cannabis in the coming school year.

“Obviously, the promotion of this company in the graduation program was a mistake and will not be permitted once the federal Cannabis Act takes effect,” Kenny said.

Under Bill C-45, the federal legislation that comes into effect on Oct. 17, it will be against the law for a cannabis producer or seller to sponsor any person, event, activity or facility.

Zenabis spokesperson May Nazair said the company did not ask the school to print its logo anywhere. It only asked for an invoice of the donation.

“My understanding is that the school has mentioned all of the sponsors during the event as a way of thank you,” she said. “Next thing I know I’m getting calls this morning about promoting to youth, which was never the case.”

In a June 17 report, the New Brunswick Working Group on the Legalization of Cannabis recommended that advertising and promotion of cannabis and accessories be prohibited except in limited circumstances, much like tobacco.

Donovan said school principals will be discussing the error at their annual meeting in August.

“This would be certainly a thing the high school principals will be addressing,” he said.