Hashish Beverage Problem: Can Hashish Beverage Overcome Hashish Tobacco?

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If infused beverages are the best way for the pot industry to reach non-cannabis users, the current approach to cannabis promotion needs to be revised

Article author:

Pierre Killeen

Release date:

November 13, 2020 • • November 13, 2020 • • Read for 2 minutes Glasses with different kinds of craft beer on wooden bar.  Sip beer in pint glasses lined up in a row.  Close up of five glasses of different beers on tap in a pub. “When a cannabis product associates with the non-cannabis user, it is cannabis beverages.” Photo by Getty Images

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Although infused beverages have been predicted to mess up the legal market, Canada’s cannabis companies have another regulatory bottleneck.

The promise of many major cannabis companies to create a brand identity in the flower market is the ability of their cannabis beverages (HEXO with TRUSS, Canopy with Tweed and Houseplant, Tilray with Fluent, and Aphria with SweetWater Brewing, etc.) to attract non-cannabis users. For this purpose, cannabis beverage manufacturers must avoid the “tobaccoization” of cannabis.

Canada’s rules for cannabis advertising and branding are based on government regulation of the tobacco industry and tobacco advertising. I first saw cannabis “tobacco” in the fall of 2017. While working for a Quebec-based licensed producer, I was told that officials from the Department of Health charged with creating the Quebec Cannabis Act were not involved in the cannabis industry. Cannabis was like tobacco and Santé Québec didn’t talk to tobacco companies.

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The “tobacco is cannabis” approach was not limited to the Province of Quebec. Faced with the challenge of regulating the advertising, branding and retailing of cannabis, our governments, both federal and provincial, have dusted their tobacco rules and used the “find” and “replace” functions to create the legal framework for Creating cannabis for adults. Ontario’s response to cannabis was no different – see the Smoke Free Ontario Act.

The “tobaccoisation” of cannabis poses great challenges for cannabis beverages. When a cannabis product is associated with the non-cannabis user, it is cannabis beverages. Drinks do not have the stigma or health baggage associated with smoking and vaping (e.g. smoking causes cancer, chronic smoking of high-THC cannabis can lead to psychosis, etc.). A drink with 2 mg of THC has a subtle effect, comparable to a single serving of alcohol. However, without the ability to market to non-cannabis users, cannabis beverage makers will struggle to make the jump into the beverage mainstream.

Cannabis beverages are the industry’s best chance for a sensible approach to cannabis promotion and branding. In order to avoid the “tobaccoisation” of cannabis beverages, Canadian cannabis beverage manufacturers must focus on the understanding and perception of their products by the public. This could mean building on the health and health benefits of CBD. This could include comparisons between the social occasions for THC drinks and alcohol-based drinks. One thing is for sure – this includes distancing cannabis beverages from smoked or vaporized cannabis products.

Pierre Killeen is the Executive Director of the Institute for Cannabis. Prior to that, he was a Public Affairs Executive at one of Canada’s largest publicly listed licensed producers.

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