‘Pot Banks’: The Answer for a Budding Industry?

When California voters approved Proposition 64 in November 2016, the Golden State became effectively the largest jurisdiction in the world to legalize recreational sale and use of cannabis. On January 1 of this year, when recreational sales were legalized, politicians, tax collectors, and business owners already were seeing green. The state estimates it will collect $600 million in taxes from cannabis sales. And it doesn’t end there.

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About Yaël Ossowski

Yaël Ossowski is a journalist, activist, and writer. He's currently deputy director at the Consumer Choice Center, and senior development officer for Students For Liberty. He was previously a national investigative reporter and chief Spanish translator at Watchdog.org, and worked at newspapers and television stations across the country. He received a Master’s Degree in Philosophy, Politics, Economics (PPE) at the CEVRO Institute in Prague. Born in Québec and raised in the southern United States, he currently lives in Vienna, Austria.

Consumer Choice Center applauds Colorado’s steps to legalize cannabis tasting rooms

MG RETAILER: Yaël Ossowski, deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center, calls the motion a “historic” step in providing establishments for safe and legal cannabis use, much like taprooms for beer and wine lounges for wine.

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About Yaël Ossowski

Yaël Ossowski is a journalist, activist, and writer. He's currently deputy director at the Consumer Choice Center, and senior development officer for Students For Liberty. He was previously a national investigative reporter and chief Spanish translator at Watchdog.org, and worked at newspapers and television stations across the country. He received a Master’s Degree in Philosophy, Politics, Economics (PPE) at the CEVRO Institute in Prague. Born in Québec and raised in the southern United States, he currently lives in Vienna, Austria.

Are Canadian Legalization Laws Too Strict?

HIGH TIMES: North American Affairs Manager at Consumer Choice Center David Clement told High Times, “A lot of people aren’t aware of which cannabis products have THC in them, or which helps you sleep. It would be prohibited to put the desired effects [on packaging].”

From a consumer safety standpoint, Mr. Clement adds, “We would love to have brands be able to say ‘this product will not get you high.’ ”

Not only are these restrictions potentially unsafe, but they’re also hypocritical. Alcohol has comparatively few limits on branding. All across Canada, liquor companies have funded venues like Budweiser Stage in Toronto.

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About David Clement

David Clement is the North American Affairs Manager for the Consumer Choice Center and is based out of Oakville, Ontario. David holds a BA in Political Science and a MA in International Relations from Wilfrid Laurier University. Previously, David was the Research Assistant to the Canada Research Chair in International Human Rights. David has been regularly featured on the CBC, Global News, The Toronto Star and various other major Canadian news outlets.

Is the U.S. Now Freer than Europe in Terms of Marijuana Decriminalization?

FEE: In many regards, Europe is lagging far behind the U.S. when it comes to legal marijuana, writes Consumer Choice Center’s Bill Wirtz.

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About Bill Wirtz

Bill Wirtz is policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center, based in Brussels, Belgium. Originally from Luxembourg, his articles have appeared across the world in English, French, German, and Luxembourgish. He is Editor-in-Chief of Speak Freely, the blog of European Students for Liberty, a contributing editor for the Freedom Today Network and a regular contributor for the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). He blogs regularly on his website in four languages.

Local Cannabis Regulations Are Creating Pockets of Prohibition

VOICE OF SAN DIEGO: By allowing cannabis lounges, San Diego area officials could remove consumers from public spaces and boost the local economy. The black market for alcohol is nearly non-existent in California because consumers have relatively easy legal access to those products.

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About David Clement

David Clement is the North American Affairs Manager for the Consumer Choice Center and is based out of Oakville, Ontario. David holds a BA in Political Science and a MA in International Relations from Wilfrid Laurier University. Previously, David was the Research Assistant to the Canada Research Chair in International Human Rights. David has been regularly featured on the CBC, Global News, The Toronto Star and various other major Canadian news outlets.

Canadá, la ley prohibirá a las celebridades promocionar la marihuana

LA MARIHUANA: El Canadian Consumer Choice Center ha criticado enérgicamente las regulaciones canadienses sobre el envasado de marihuana. No solo limitan la promoción de las celebridades y el estilo de vida, sino que también limitan la información necesaria sobre la marca.

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About David Clement

David Clement is the North American Affairs Manager for the Consumer Choice Center and is based out of Oakville, Ontario. David holds a BA in Political Science and a MA in International Relations from Wilfrid Laurier University. Previously, David was the Research Assistant to the Canada Research Chair in International Human Rights. David has been regularly featured on the CBC, Global News, The Toronto Star and various other major Canadian news outlets.

Canadian Law Will Prohibit Celebrities From Endorsing Cannabis

HIGH TIMES: David Clement of Consumer Choice Center explains, “All a criminal needs to do to pass off their product is to replicate this simple branding.”

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About David Clement

David Clement is the North American Affairs Manager for the Consumer Choice Center and is based out of Oakville, Ontario. David holds a BA in Political Science and a MA in International Relations from Wilfrid Laurier University. Previously, David was the Research Assistant to the Canada Research Chair in International Human Rights. David has been regularly featured on the CBC, Global News, The Toronto Star and various other major Canadian news outlets.

Eyesore Marijuana Packaging Isn’t Healthy For Canadians Or Competition

HUFFINGTON POST CANADA: Last Monday, Health Canada unveiled its proposed guidance on how cannabis should be regulated, marketed and sold once it is fully legalized in later this year, likely in July or August.

While the rules incorporate important and necessary standards, the restrictions on branding and logos, as well as the exhaustive warning requirements are, quite literally, an eyesore.

According to Health Canada’s guidelines, each package must contain a large red warning sign with an image of a cannabis leaf and the word THC, the main potent chemical in cannabis. Added to that, the package must come with a yellow label warning that it must not be used by children or pregnant women.

Any brand or logo must, therefore, be visibly smaller than the THC warning sign, and any use of italics or bold font to accentuate any text is prohibited. That means a brand or logo will have minimal placement on a package.

What this guideline proposes is that cannabis companies be incredibly restricted in how they’re allowed to brand and market their products. That won’t help consumers make informed choices, and may even threaten consumer safety. And it certainly won’t bring breed any creativity for entrepreneurs and marketers.

It’s safe to say cannabis will be as heavily regulated as tobacco, but much less than alcohol. Is that fair?

For one, with such limited packaging space to market their products, how can companies differentiate themselves from competing brands? What if one company uses a completely GMO-free process, or another is from a First Nations reserve? Don’t consumers deserve to know this information, and shouldn’t companies be free to let their customers know? Without this information, the biggest and most well-known brand is best situated to gain dominant market power. Limiting branding is tantamount to limiting consumer choice.

Added to that, these restrictions will hurt consumer safety. As Health Canada recognized, the plain packaging of tobacco in countries like Australia and the United Kingdom has led to the growth of contraband tobacco products on the black market. Criminal dealers are emboldened to create fake labels on products and pass it off as another brand. In Australia, which implemented plain packaging of tobacco in 2012, close to 15 per cent of all tobacco consumed in 2016 was purchased in the illicit market.

Illicit markets aren’t regulated and transactions take place outside our legal and financial system. That isn’t good for Canadians’ safety.

HEALTH CANADA

Considering these are just the federal requirements, and we have yet to see the final plans by each province, it’s safe to say cannabis will be as heavily regulated as tobacco, but much less than alcohol. Is that fair?

The question becomes, should the government treat legal cannabis users, a drug less harmful than alcohol and many opiates, like children who cannot make their own decisions?

Answering that will be key to determining whether this succeeds. Especially considering Canada is due to become the largest industrialized country to legalize cannabis. The world will be watching.

Are there alternatives?

For an informed look at alternatives, we need only cite the examples of Washington State, Oregon and Colorado — U.S. states that have already legalized cannabis and proposed some common-sense rules.

In these states, the most onerous regulations are applied to media and billboard advertising, rather than the packages themselves.

And this approach works.

ELIJAH NOUVELAGE / REUTERS
Different strains of marijuana are seen for sale in California.

I ventured into various Washington State dispensaries last year and was taken aback by the number of competing brands present inside. There is a plethora of magazines and websites dedicated to comparing each strain and product, discussing the various tastes and promised effects for responsible users. Entire companies have sprung up to promote safe and enjoyable experiences for consumers. That’s what its laws allow for.

As successful cannabis companies such as Weedmaps, Leafly and Ganjapreneur prove, entrepreneurs can actually fill the space left by government when it comes to safety and information. They can provide better guidance on how much to take, where to buy it and which companies have the most ethical practices. We don’t need government branding restrictions to do that for us.

By restricting brands, we as Canadians are completely outsourcing the imagination of cannabis to an overzealous crowd of public health regulators.

Rather than our current path, we should follow the Washington-Oregon-Colorado (WOC) model. One that embraces brands and logos, information and entrepreneurship.

The fact remains: brands matter. Much like Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the 2015 election, or the Canadian flag abroad, a strong brand tied to good information will ultimately make for better and happier consumers.

British design critic Stephen Bayley said it best:

“A war against branding is a war against people. Brands are, quite literally, signs of life, or, at least, popular expressions of it. They are culture, art, design, value, belief.”

If Canada wants to be an example to the world when it comes to the legalization of cannabis, we’d be wise to follow his words.

Yaël Ossowski, a Montreal-area native, is deputy director of Consumer Choice Center.

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About Yaël Ossowski

Yaël Ossowski is a journalist, activist, and writer. He's currently deputy director at the Consumer Choice Center, and senior development officer for Students For Liberty. He was previously a national investigative reporter and chief Spanish translator at Watchdog.org, and worked at newspapers and television stations across the country. He received a Master’s Degree in Philosophy, Politics, Economics (PPE) at the CEVRO Institute in Prague. Born in Québec and raised in the southern United States, he currently lives in Vienna, Austria.

Canadian Advocacy Group Criticizes Marijuana Packaging Restrictions

HIGH TIMES: David Clement, the North American Affairs Manager at Consumer Choice Center, advocates on behalf of the consumer. Mr. Clement sees Canada’s potential restrictions as both dangerous and antithetical to consumer freedom.

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About David Clement

David Clement is the North American Affairs Manager for the Consumer Choice Center and is based out of Oakville, Ontario. David holds a BA in Political Science and a MA in International Relations from Wilfrid Laurier University. Previously, David was the Research Assistant to the Canada Research Chair in International Human Rights. David has been regularly featured on the CBC, Global News, The Toronto Star and various other major Canadian news outlets.

Proposed pot packaging regs are ‘ridiculously hypocritical’: Consumer group

CALGARY HERALD: The Consumer Choice Center (CCC), an advocacy group that represents consumers in over 100 countries, says the restrictions will only limit consumer knowledge, choice, and encourage the black market.

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About David Clement

David Clement is the North American Affairs Manager for the Consumer Choice Center and is based out of Oakville, Ontario. David holds a BA in Political Science and a MA in International Relations from Wilfrid Laurier University. Previously, David was the Research Assistant to the Canada Research Chair in International Human Rights. David has been regularly featured on the CBC, Global News, The Toronto Star and various other major Canadian news outlets.