Restrictions on advertising pot in Canada would get even tougher if a Senate amendment is adopted that would prevent cannabis companies from putting their logos on merchandise like ball caps and T-shirts.
Senators studying The Cannabis Act, Bill C-45, adopted an amendment Friday to prevent “brand stretching,” which Conservative Sen. Judith Seidman warned was a loophole in the law that would allow cannabis companies “to market to our kids by stealth.”
The bill bans virtually all promotion and marketing of marijuana. However, there was an exception that allowed companies to brand items that aren’t related to cannabis. The Senate amendment removes that exception.
Marijuana companies already have their logos on T-shirts, backpacks and iPhone cases, said Seidman, who proposed the amendment. “To think these products won’t develop a cachet among teenagers is delusional,” she said in written remarks.
“We are all too familiar with the marketing techniques used by alcohol and tobacco companies to maximize consumption of their products — and consequently their profits,” Seidman said. “We have every indication that the Canadian cannabis industry will be no different.”
Seidman said experience with the tobacco industry shows that partial marketing restrictions are largely ineffective because companies just shift their advertising dollars to whatever promotion is not banned.
Cannabis industry supporters responded with incredulity. Within hours, one company was selling “Free the Swag” T-shirts and hoodies online.
Making clothing illegal will simply make it more attractive to youth, tweeted Shane Morris, an executive with Aurora, one of Canada’s largest cannabis companies. Unenforceable laws are bad laws, he said.
Others mocked the idea.
Trina Fraser, a leading lawyer for the cannabis industry, invited people to send her all their cannabis swag to save for posterity. “Ladies large people!”
“Don’t know what the big deal is,” she tweeted. “Studies show that only 4% of swag wearers display signs of problem-garbing.”
“So it will be legal to buy the drug but not the shirt?” asked one wag on Twitter. Others warned that employees would not be able to wear a T-shirt with the name of their company on it.
The no-swag amendment was one of 40 adopted by the Senate last week. Senators plan a final vote on the cannabis bill on June 7.
The government has said it wants the bill legalizing recreational pot to be in force this summer. But the timing is unclear, especially if the bill ends up bouncing back and forth between the Senate and the House.