As we have learned from GALA's Webinar, cannabis advertising is a global challenge due to the diverse regulatory approaches in different jurisdictions.

In the United States, the laws applicable to the use of Cannabis vary significantly – from outright prohibition to authorization for medical use or even permission for recreational use. The regulation of advertising is similarly varied. For example in the State of California, licensed companies may promote ads, targeted to an audience reasonably expected to be at least 21 years old, but the use of images targeted at children as well as adds near any school, daycare, playground or youth center is off limits.

In Canada, promoting cannabis is prohibited unless it qualifies for one of the exceptions in the national Cannabis Act. Notwithstanding advertising/promotion cannot under any circumstance communicate information about price/distribution (unless factual), appeal to young persons, use testimonials or endorsements, depict a person, a real/fictional character or an animal, use “lifestyle” advertising and no sponsorships are authorised.

In Portugal, advertising to cannabis products to be used for medicinal purposes is generally forbidden, with the exception of technical publications or information intended exclusively for doctors and other health professionals. Advertising of other cannabis derived products is subject to the general rules applicable to advertising. In particular, when advertising this kind of products there can be no reference to therapeutic properties on their labelling or related advertising.

In South Africa, the marketing and promotion of cannabis products to be used for medicinal purposes shall be in accordance with the Medicines and Related Substances Act, comply with the terms of its registration, where relevant; and be consistent with the particulars listed in its Regulatory Authority-approved product documentation (e.g. the Professional Information/Patient Information Leaflet/Instructions for Use). The general rules applicable to Advertising must also be complied with.

Lastly, in Uruguay, recreational cannabis or medicinal psychoactive cannabis advertising is forbidden. CBD medicinal cannabis is only allowed if directed to HCPs. The applicable legal framework is very restrictive but quite unclear regarding other cannabis derived products.

The overview of the different approaches to cannabis legislation in these countries, shows the complexities, differences and some similarities of the laws across the world. It is not easy to discern a general common approach to the legislation surrounding cannabis. This is due to the fact that the terminology is different when referring to medical marijuana/medical cannabis and recreational marijuana/recreational cannabis, although specific terminology as CBD and hemp seem common to all jurisdictions.

As we also heard, many countries differentiate the legislation and penalties around cannabis or its components in different ways. Nonetheless, the majority of the countries treats cannabis – and its components - as an illicit drug although it may be legal to cultivate and supply cannabis plants for hemp fibre if they have low levels of THC and to use cannabis/marijuana for medicinal purposes, if duly authorized.

The rules applicable to advertising cannabis derived products seem to also differ between the referred countries being, in some cases, strictly forbidden, or highly restricted and, in others, subject to licensing.

Cannabis advertising therefore demands creativity and specific knowledge of a highly regulated market.