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BEYOND LOCAL: Geo-targeting may be a loophole amidst strict cannabis marketing rules

The guidelines for cannabis very similar the ones enforced for tobacco

As cannabis stores begin to sprout up across Ontario, separating themselves from the competition will be crucial to their future success. Advertising is one way retail stores are able to push their products onto consumers, although stores selling cannabis must follow strict guidelines enforced by Health Canada that are similar to the ones for tobacco.

But according to the CEO of American advertising company Adloop, there is a loophole. “We have the ability to geo-target people and devices to those entering cannabis retail stores,” said Josh Segal via skype from Los Angeles.

Geo-targeting allows the company to determine if someone is over 18 years old, if they are at a location where minors are not allowed, and other information that identifies the individual.

“Our biggest concern is that we run a campaign for a cannabis company and they run the risk of losing their licence. So we are closing the marketing loop and ensuring to Health Canada that this is compliant marketing with respect to their guidelines,” said Segal.

According to Health Canada, the cannabis legislation aims to protect public health and public safety by restricting young people’s access to cannabis, protecting young people and others from inducements to use cannabis and enhancing public awareness of the health risks associated with cannabis use.

The legislation prohibits the promotion of cannabis, cannabis accessories and services related to cannabis, with exceptions for limited advertising.

Even though the cannabis promotion guidelines are strict and allow for little wiggle room, they do say a person may promote a cannabis service or product if the promotion is:

  • In a communication that is addressed and sent to an individual who is 18 years of age or older and is identified by name.
  • In a place where young persons are not permitted by law.
  • Communicated by means of a telecommunication, where the person responsible for the content of the promotion has taken reasonable steps to ensure that the promotion cannot be accessed by a young person.

Global News spoke with Health Canada through email about the legality of Adloop’s loophole, and if they are legally allowed to use the geo-targeting method. They responded by saying they will need to review it and will have an answer by Tuesday, April 2.

As for Segal, he says he is working with licensed cultivators across the country and looks forward to seeing the cannabis industry grow after April 1.

- Global News