Canada warns marijuana companies over ‘age gating,’ online promotions

Health Canada warning, Canada warns marijuana companies over ‘age gating,’ online promotions

Canada’s cannabis regulator issued a lengthy warning to license holders concerning possible noncompliant promotional activities since the Cannabis Act went into force last fall.

In a letter sent late last week, Corinne Guenette, director of Health Canada’s compliance promotion and policy branch, reminded companies of their obligation to comply with the Cannabis Act, in particular prohibitions related to the promotion of cannabis and accessories, as well as marijuana-related services.

Guenette highlighted certain activities that could contravene Canada’s strict rules on promotion, packaging and labeling, including:

  • Promotions and product packaging and labeling that contain references to product names that could appeal to young people or depict, through the use of written words or pictures, a person, character or animal.
  • Promotions and product packaging and labeling that contain associations with or evoke a positive or negative emotion about or image of a way of life, such as one that includes glamour, recreation, excitement, vitality, risk or daring.

Health Canada noted that some cannabis license holders are promoting their goods or services on social media sites and other websites without taking steps to ensure the promotion cannot be accessed by a young person.

Read the full letter here.

‘Age gating’ ineffective

The health department also dedicated a section of the letter to the common – and ineffective – practice of “age gating,” or the self-confirmation of age by users.

Health Canada noted:

“In other cases, the steps taken – e.g. simple self-attestation of age – may be easily circumvented by youth. All licence holders should immediately assess their online promotional content, and, where necessary, implement additional steps to ensure youth cannot access promotional content.”

It is unclear if Health Canada considers self-confirmation of age in itself an insufficient means to ensure youth cannot access promotional content.

Health Canada did not immediately respond to queries from Marijuana Business Daily.

Deepak Anand, a cannabis industry expert based in Vancouver, British Columbia, said self-declared age gates force companies to “waste a lot of time and money without necessarily addressing the issue.”

“It takes a lot to optimize your website in a way that complies with age requirements, but, at the same time, you’re not necessarily achieving the desired objectives,” he said.

“What (is the letter) saying? Are they saying on the one hand you have to force users to enter a birthdate, or that no, users must go through a registration process with proof of age in order to get access?

“It seems like it can be interpreted a few different ways.”

Matt Lamers can be reached at

To sign up for our weekly international cannabis business newsletter, click here.