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Age Gating “ineffective” in deterring youth promotion.

by Kelly Williamson
October 2, 2019

Health Canada on enforcing prohibited promotion in Cannabis Act.

Earlier in 2019 Corinne Guénette, Director of Health Canada’s Compliance Promotion and Policy office, sent a letter reminding companies of their obligation to comply with the Cannabis act. This letter addressed prohibitions regarding promotion of cannabis/accessories and related services.

Health Canada explicitly noted that age gating techniques in place by many online Marijuana providers was ‘ineffective’ when it came to youth promotional accessibility.

Health Canada issued the following statement:

In other cases, the steps taken – e.g. simple self-attestation of age – may be easily circumvented by youth. All licence holders should immediately assess their online promotional content, and, where necessary, implement additional steps to ensure youth cannot access promotional content.”

Health Canada has further said that “one-click” authentication pages are not advanced enough to prevent underage youth from Cannabis Act it is prohibited that cannabis companies make any promotions that may appeal to under aged Canadians.

A representative of Health Canada said that the institute will be creating additional steps to help companies create compliant ‘age gates’.  These steps could include, but not limited to:

  • Date of birth entry along with Age authorization.
  • Pop-ups emphasizing youth aren’t permitted to view cannabis content and promotional products.

The letter references a fact sheet and webinar that was dedicated to help raise awareness of promotion prohibition in September 2018. These webinars and fact sheets promoted the Canadian Governments goals when it came to protecting young people from the ‘inducement of cannabis’. 

It also lists many specific promotional activities which prohibit:

  • There are no reasonable grounds to believe site could to youth.
  • Testimonials or endorsements, however displayed or communicated.
  • A depiction of a person, character or animal, whether real or fictional.
  • That associates the cannabis/accessories or services related to cannabis or any of its brands elements.
  • 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 dating; or
  • Cannabis and their accessories that contains false, misleading, or deceptive or that is likely to create an erroneous impression about certain elements.

These rules imply the strict compliance of cannabis producers and its brand forcing accountability and responsibility for their practices and product.  

The letter ensures enforcement of practices by mentioning several penalties for non-compliance. Health Canada can issue warning letters, suspend or revoke licenses, give ministerial orders and issue administrative penalties. They are also able to issue fines of up to $1,000,000 or the maximum permitted by regulations.

The Canadian Government and Health Canada want to prevent the ‘normalization’ and social acceptance of cannabis for youth. This letter serves as a reminder that cannabis producers and companies brand their products accordingly.