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Cannabis Legalization on October 17: What About Advertising?

October 29th, 2018

October 17 will be a date that will go down in history. We know we are not teaching you anything by stating that this date is a turning point in positioning Canada as the second country to legalize cannabis nationally.

However, if you work in the advertising industry, we believe this summary will be useful when it comes to the promotion, packaging and labeling of cannabis in Quebec. The rules set out in this summary arise from the federal and Quebec legislations, which is very similar to that applicable to tobacco.

Retail sale

Dried cannabis, cannabis oil and fresh cannabis are currently the only categories of cannabis that can be sold at retail level, excluding edible products and concentrated cannabis for the upcoming year.

In Quebec, only the "Société québécoise du cannabis" (SQDC) is allowed to sell cannabis at retail level. Note that an authorized producer can of course sell cannabis to the SQDC, but also to another authorized producer.

In the case of cannabis accessories, that is, anything that is represented to be used in the consumption or production of cannabis, these can be sold by a business operator other than the SQDC, provided that it is done in compliance with all of the requirements regarding the retail sale of tobacco accessories under the Tobacco Control Act.

Note that the use, on a facility, a vehicle, a poster or an object that is not cannabis (which therefore includes the sale of any such item on which this use appears) of a name, logo, distinctive sign, design, image or slogan that is not directly associated with cannabis, the SQDC or a brand or a cannabis producer, but which could induce such link, be it directly or indirectly, is prohibited. This prohibition therefore applies, for example, to the famous t-shirts bearing a cannabis leaf.


It is forbidden to:

  • give, distribute freely or supply cannabis to a consumer for promotional purposes;
  • reduce the retail price based on the quantity of cannabis (economy of scale) or offer or give the consumer a discount on the market price; and
  • offer a consumer a gift, a discount, the opportunity to participate in a contest or any other form of benefit if, in return, the consumer must purchase cannabis or provide proof of such purchase or information on cannabis or his/her cannabis consumption.

Sponsorship and association

Any direct or indirect sponsorship associated in any way with the promotion of cannabis, the SQDC, a brand or a cannabis producer, is prohibited.

This prohibition, however, is " prevent the cannabis industry from making gifts to the extent that the gifts are made without any promotional association.". It should be noted that section 51 of the Act further states that " the communication of information by the donor or donee concerning the nature of the gift and the name of the donor, otherwise than through an advertising or commercial message, does not constitute a promotional association".

Also, it is forbidden to associate a name, a logo, a distinctive sign, a drawing, a picture or a slogan associated with cannabis, the SQDC, a brand or a cannabis producer with:

  • a sports, cultural or social facility;
  • an installation maintained by a health or social services institution;
  • a research center; or
  • a sporting, cultural or social event.


It is permitted to promote or advertise, directly or indirectly, cannabis and its accessories subject to compliance with all the following limitations and prohibitions:

  • it should not be intended for minors or be attractive to them;
  • it must not be false or misleading or likely to create a false impression about the characteristics of cannabis, its effects or dangers to health;
  • it must not directly or indirectly associate cannabis use with a lifestyle;
  • it must not use testimonials;
  • it must not use a slogan;
  • it should not include references to real or fictional people, characters or animals;
  • it must not contain any term, expression or logo, symbol or illustration prohibited by regulation;
  • it must contain only text (the only illustration allowed is the pack or the packaging of cannabis, which cannot however exceed 10% of the total surface of the advertising piece);
  • subject to be allowed and compliant, it may only be broadcasted in one of the following ways:
    • in printed newspapers or magazines sent to and addressed to an adult 18-years of age by name, provided that the advertisement contains the warning from the Minister concerning the harmful effects of cannabis on health and that the advertisement has been filed with the Minister as soon as it is released; and
    • on a display that can only be seen from inside a cannabis outlet; and
  • advertising that communicates only factual information about cannabis, including price, the intrinsic characteristics of cannabis, cannabis brands or the SQDC is allowed, to the extent that it does not contravene any other limitation or prohibition.

Packaging and labeling

Only cannabis whose packaging and labeling meet the following conditions may be sold:

  • there must be no reasonable grounds to believe that packaging or labeling may be attractive to young people;
  • it must not be false or misleading or likely to create a false impression about the characteristics of cannabis, its purity, its value, its quantity, its concentration, its effects or dangers on health, etc.;
  • there must be no direct or indirect association between cannabis use and lifestyle;
  • there must be no endorsement or testimony;
  • there must be no depiction of real or fictional persons, characters or animals;
  • no term, expression, logo, symbol or illustration prohibited by regulation shall be used; and
  • the packaging and labeling must meet all the requirements of the Cannabis Regulations (Federal), which apply in particular to: mandatory symbols and standard warnings, indications that could or must be included on the packaging and the label and their format as well as the material aspect of the packaging.


Quebec legislation provides for penalties ranging from $5,000 to $500,000 for a first offence, these amounts may double in the event of a subsequent offence. Federal legislation provides for the imposition of fines of up to $5 million, as well as imprisonment for violations of the law and its regulations.

In short, as shown in the portrait in this summary, the list of prohibitions and limitations is long and provides the thin outline of what is allowed in terms of promotion and packaging. We therefore recommend that you familiarize yourself with these requirements and of course consult your experts before starting to design any initiative related to the promotion of cannabis that is intended for Quebec or Canada.

Do you have questions or want more information? Contact us, it will be our pleasure to support you in this new and historic era in Canada.

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