Dear Cannabis Industry, Don’t Forget Your Roots

The world is ready to see what cannabis can do

It’s been a windy road for cannabis’s perception over the past century. Now, after much work by researchers, regulators and cultivators, the plant is beginning to be accepted at the federal level. What drives change? In discovery, it’s the marrying of scientific exploration and the human spirit. Cannabis is certainly one of those things.

Last year Canada became the first G7 nation to legalize cannabis for recreational use. As an industry, we are incredibly proud of this accomplishment and grateful to those who got us to this point. The work has just begun however, it’s now time to executive effectively, and show the world that the cannabis industry is one that values precision, quality and purpose and that it’s ready to facilitate this on a global level.

Bring your creativity

What makes marketing difficult in the Canadian cannabis industry is the strong, but vague rules printed in the Canadian legislation around legal cannabis (the Cannabis Act). Right now, companies are slowly testing the waters to see how far they can take their product and branding.

At Valens, we carry a unique position in the supply chain with the opportunity to play an integral part in the success of many companies and ultimately, many consumer products. We recently created a video with Scrap Creative to say thank you to those who have gotten us to this point, and to illustrate our current and future commitment to safely and responsibly showing the world what cannabis can do.

Advertising in the Canadian cannabis regulatory environment

It is certainly hard for cannabis companies like ours to tell our brand stories.

Regulations restrict where content and marketing materials can live, thus limiting a brand’s ability to build credibility with consumers. Strict requirements ensure that all cannabis-related promotional materials are age-gated and that the material itself doesn’t present cannabis or the brand in a way that evokes positive or negative emotions about a way of life that includes glamour, recreation, vitality and risk among other things.

Companies feel limited to simple displays of brand elements, operations, facilities, products, events and cannabis education. Some have gotten around these regulations by using celebrities as advisors or managers. For example, cannabis producer Canopy Growth brought on Martha Stewart and Seth Rogan in advisory capacities.

Branding through packaging has been another issue for producers north of the U.S. border. Companies are limited to one font, one Pantone color and one branded element, and must include a plethora of warning labels on all packaged products. Enterprising brands are turning to their digital platforms to showcase more appealing renderings of packaging and building consumer awareness that way.

Combined, all the regulations create a head-scratching problem for marketers in the space. How do you build a brand that resonates with consumers without involving emotions? And without branded packaging, how do you create a differentiated brand for consumers? At Valens, it’s through our core values and reputable partners.

Though explored, used and tinkered with for thousands of years, cannabis was abolished by society on a world scale a century ago. Today, that box is beginning to open back up again. Research is building, and discoveries are being made around a plant that has shown the power to help, heal and maybe even cure. What does this mean for those of us that got the head start? The early licensees, the policymakers in a country pushing the mandate, the retailers—it means a promise to the future.

Kayla Mann is business development and marketing manager at Valens GroWorks.