Cannabis industry opposes call for plain packaging

Garfield Mahood has spent 30 years fighting for the Canadian government to require plain packaging forcigarettes.

VANCOUVER — Garfield Mahood has spent 30 years fighting for the Canadian government to require plain packaging for cigarettes.

So, the long-time non-smokers’ rights activist says he doesn’t have much faith in the government’s ability to regulate and restrict the marketing of marijuana.

“They identified tobacco products as a cause of disease back in the 1950s,” said Mahood, president of the Campaign for Justice on Tobacco Fraud. “They’ve never been able to bring this epidemic close to a conclusion.

“What would give you faith that health departments are going to effectively regulate any health problems related to these other drugs?”

As the Liberal government prepares to introduce legislation to “legalize, regulate and restrict access to marijuana” before this summer, one area that the cannabis industry and public health advocates are closely watching is whether it will allow companies to brand and promote their products.

A task force appointed by the federal government recommended it require plain packaging and a limit to advertising similar to the restrictions on tobacco. But licensed producers of medical marijuana argue that cannabis isn’t as dangerous as tobacco and that branding and marketing are necessary to attract consumers from the black market to the legal industry.

Mahood began advocating for plain packaging on tobacco in the mid-1980s. Governments over the years declined to implement it until 2016, when Health Minister Jane Philpott vowed to ban branding on cigarette boxes and a bill was introduced in the Senate.

The aim is to strip the industry’s ability to attach “sophistication and allure” to its products, said Mahood, and to prevent it from detracting from public-health warnings.

While there is a lot that researchers still don’t know about marijuana, it’s not a benign substance and there are health risks, said Rebecca Jesseman, a senior policy adviser at the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, which supports plain packaging.

The inhalation of any hot vapour into the lungs is harmful, while edible products have been linked to over-consumption and increased emergency room visits in Colorado and Washington, where marijuana is legal, she said.

“It’s much easier to be more restrictive from the outset and then loosen the restrictions as you learn, than it is to start out with looser regulations and try to make them more stringent,” she said.

Cam Battley, executive vice-president at Aurora Cannabis, said he would never call a psychoactive substance completely benign. But he said marijuana is more benign than alcohol or tobacco.

“There are millions of Canadians who purchase cannabis. What the federal government is trying to do is get people to switch over from the illegal and unregulated market to the regulated market,” he said.

“If they want to do that, it makes sense to allow us to state who we are, to establish our brands, to justify why it makes sense for consumers to go through the legal system instead of going to somebody they know in the neighbourhood.”

In terms of advertising, Battley said he believes that cannabis should be treated essentially the same as liquor, a sector where companies cannot show people using the product in commercials or target underage individuals.

The federal task force recommended that plain marijuana packaging be allowed to include the company name, strain name, price, amounts of psychoactive ingredients and warnings.

Just Posted

911 operator helps Red Deer couple during birth

Meet for the first time Thursday

Canada’s 150 year ends on ice, but no hockey pucks, triple jumps allowed

OTTAWA — No figure skating. No hockey. No racing. No cell phones.… Continue reading

Banner signing at Collicutt Centre

International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Regulator investigating Sears Canada liquidation sale prices: monitor

TORONTO — The Competition Bureau is investigating allegations that prices on some… Continue reading

Video: Joshua Frank explains shooting Gordon, Sandra and Monica Klaus

Frank and Jason Klaus are facing triple murder charges in the deaths Klaus’ parents and sister

Updated: Missing Sylvan Lake women found

Women were reported missing earlier this week

Liberals propose billions for affordable housing, including individual benefits

A Liberal government fond of promising help for those working hard to… Continue reading

Alberta Party sees growth in Central Alberta

Greg Clark addressed health care needs addressed in Red Deer

Ponoka council freezes Ponoka Fire Department spending

All discretionary spending frozen until full budget numbers are presented

WATCH: Ponoka’s Festival of Trees sees continued support

Three days of celebration and fundraising held at the Calnash Ag Event Centre

Creationist will speak at home-schooling convention in Red Deer

Ken Ham has debated Bill Nye on the Earth’s origins

CP Holiday train makes stops in Central Alberta

The popular train will feature entertainment from Colin James and Emma-Lee

Cost to fix Phoenix pay system to surpass $540 million, auditor general says

The federal government’s chronic salary struggles will take more time and more… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month