FEATURE17 October 2018

High times

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As Canada legalises the recreational use of cannabis and attitudes towards the drug soften, BDS Analytics’ Linda Gilbert looks at what to expect from an increasingly sophisticated market.


Canada’s robust experience with legal cannabis – it first permitted regulated medical marijuana in 2001 – is poised to expand in October 2018, when sales of cannabis to adults will be allowed. The legal pivot has implications far beyond boosting sales and tax collections, and will transform the Canadian marijuana marketplace into something familiar in certain US states: a brand bonanza.

First, the caveat. The Cannabis Act includes restrictions for on-pack branding – from logo sizes and colours, to rules against promoting ‘glamour, recreation, excitement, vitality, risk or daring’. While the rules limit creativity, brands are expected to dominate in edibles, concentrates and topicals (medications).

Despite Canada’s long involvement with legal cannabis, the consumer market resembles US states with medical-only regulatory regimes – where talk about cannabis remains hush-hush, outdated stigmas persist, education about the plant is minimal, and product evolution cannot compare with that of states with strong adult-use markets, such as Colorado and California. ...