Business & Legal

Packaging Tyranny in Canada

Written by Nicholas Demski

Never forget Reefer Madness; a demonizing caricature of cannabis debuted in 1932, representing strong opinions that still exists today.

Completely lacking in facts, statistics, and even anecdotes, it is based entirely on hysteria and ignorance. Reefer Madness encompasses an unwillingness to embrace the historical and contemporary evidence that cannabis is a medicine and a tool to improve people’s lives.

Even in this greener time, cannabis still faces levels of tyranny that more dangerous drugs like alcohol do not. We’re in the midst of legalization, and there are still people in positions of power that are treating cannabis like an evil drug incapable of having any benefit.

Figure 1 Packaging laws are treating cannabis like an evil drug.


This bias against cannabis is apparent in the recent packaging laws enacted in Canada.

Stricter Packaging Laws than Alcohol

Canadian cannabis packaging must be plain; no lifestyle elements, photos, and only a single small brand element. The government mandates a warning symbol that looks like a stop sign, and the brand element must be no larger than the warning label.

The packaging must also include health warnings akin to what you might find on cigarettes. Bloomberg had a conversation with Cam Battley, the CCO of Aurora Cannabis about this (1). “Plain packaging that treats cannabis like tobacco,” Cam said, “is scientifically wrong.” He also added that the Canadian Federal Government is making a “policy fail.”

The Minister of Health, Ginette Petitpas Taylor, seems magnanimous in her approach to public safety (2). It would be interesting to hear the reasons why the same strict packaging regulations are not required for alcohol—a substance much more addictive and far more dangerous to public health than cannabis.

The Soft Tyranny of Packaging Control

This type of strict packaging regulation, when taken in the context of how the alcohol market is regulated, is tyranny in disguise. It’s fear mongering and user-shaming at the same time. The packaging—just by its design—says, “I’m not safe, the person carrying this package is making a poor choice for their health.”

A Better Way Forward

Thankfully, the demonization of cannabis doesn’t hold the same effect that it used to. People are wising up to its appropriate and responsible use. In the future, we would like to see cannabis packaging regulated in the same way as alcohol. Factual warnings are there; but so is the style, the creativity, and the fun. Cannabis companies should have the freedom to differentiate themselves from one another in a responsible way.

packaging laws in Canada are just a softer form of cannabis tyranny? Regulating their appearance harsher than alcohol is akin to presuming that alcohol is somehow safer and places on a stigma on the might as well be a brown paper bag with the sharpie inscription “evil drugs.”


  1. “Canada Details Packaging Rules Ahead of Marijuana Legalization.” Accessed April 6. 2018.
  2. “Government Confirms Pot Packaging Will Be Plain, with Branding and Logos ‘Restricted.’” Accessed April 6, 2018.



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Nicholas Demski

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