At a high level, the proposed Cannabis Act adopts the same approach to restricting promotion as the Tobacco Act, banning all promotion of cannabis and cannabis accessories except as specifically authorized. This means that all promotion is prohibited unless it falls within a category which is specifically authorized in the Cannabis Act.
Both statutes include essentially the same broad definition of “promotion” and both contain similar authorizations.
For greater certainty, both statutes also set out, non-exhaustively, specific types of promotion that are prohibited. For example, both statutes prohibit testimonials or depicting any person, character or animal, real or fictional, in advertising.
Both Acts also prohibit promotion that could be appealing to young persons and what the Tobacco Act calls “lifestyle advertising,” meaning presenting a product or its brand elements “in a manner that associates it or its brand element with, or evokes a positive or negative emotion about or image of, a way of life such as one that includes glamour, recreation, excitement, vitality, risk or daring.”
These provisions have been interpreted in the context of the Tobacco Act, most notably by the Supreme Court of Canada in a 2007 judgment.
The Supreme Court of Canada read down the prohibition against advertising that is “appealing to young persons,” construing it as applying only to advertising that “could be particularly attractive and of interest to young persons, as distinguished from the general population” (emphasis added). Therefore, an advertisement is not prohibited merely because it is of general interest, appealing to young people just as it appeals to older people. The prohibition targets advertising that is particularly attractive to, i.e. intended to be appealing to, young persons as opposed to the general population.
With regard to lifestyle advertising, the Supreme Court attempted to strike a balance between the prohibited advertising and “true information and brand-preference advertising,” which is permitted. The court considered that the prohibition is intended to prevent the use of emotions and images that may induce people to start to use or increase their use of tobacco. According to the Supreme Court, “even advertising that does not appear on its face to connect a lifestyle with a tobacco product is prohibited if it subliminally connects a tobacco product with a lifestyle.”