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The Influencers' Guide to Canna-Promotion on Instagram

By Whitney Abrams | August 7, 2019

Brands who formerly opted to use traditional forms of advertising like print and online media have taken to influencer marketing to capitalize on personalities who have large, and often targeted, relevant, niche audiences at their fingertips.  Many brands and direct-to-consumer companies rely on influencer marketing as their exclusive marketing channel. 

 

For those who don’t know what an influencer is, they are people who possess a specific type of knowledge and/or social influence in a specific field, like health, fitness, food fashion, or, of course, cannabis, and curate their social media presence around that expertise. Brands will then reach out to influencers to represent their brands and leverage the networks that influencers have created.  At the birth of social media, influencers were limited to celebrities and first mover bloggers.  Now, brand partnerships are no longer few and far between, and influencers are everywhere.

 

Recent statistics have suggested that in Canadian and US markets, brands have spent a total of $442 million on influencer marketing in Q2 2019 alone.  This segment is growing at a rate of 83% year over year according to research from the influencer marketing measurement company, Instascreener.

 

Cannabis influencers are everywhere.  From commenting on certain strains and lifestyle uses for cannabis, to recommending certain cannabis products or posting reviews.  However, given the very strict regulations surrounding promotions set out by the Cannabis Act, recreational cannabis brands are excluded from capitalizing on influencers.  Most brands are highly sensitive to compliance, and will not skirt the rules.  However, on the influencer-side, the knowledge often comes from the brand forging the partnership. 

 

Influencers who fall outside of the cannabis-niche, like wellness or food influencers, simply don’t know what the limits are of brand partnerships in the cannabis space and how they may inadvertently be promoting illegal cannabis or cannabis products to their followers.  Influencers can be misinformed or misguided about the use of cannabis (or CBD, which is just cannabis in the Cannabis Act’s eyes) and promote on that basis. 

 

I have continued to see more and more examples of Canadian wellness influencers who are not aware of the legal cannabis regime taking to Instagram to promote various cannabis products, offering discount codes, and tagging #ad or #spon in their posts.[1]  Not only do these promotions run afoul of the Cannabis Act, or worse, promote an illegal product, but any sponsored cannabis promotion through influencers runs afoul of Instagram’s prohibitive policy, which doesn’t allow people or organizations to use the platform to advertise cannabis.

 

If you are an influencer who has been approached by a brand to forge a partnership, it is pertinent to obtain legal advice to ensure that your activities are compliant.  Contact Whitney Abrams (Turn on Javascript! or a 416-369-4148) for assistance. 

 

[1] From an advertising law perspective in Canada, the use of #ad and #spon is required when an influencer is being paid for a promotion.  This is governed by the various consumer protection legislation across the country.  


Whitney Abrams

Whitney Abrams

Whitney’s work focuses on providing regulatory advice and advocating on behalf of cannabis businesses in the North American market. She is a frequent contributor to Canada Cannabis Legal.
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Comments (3)

  1. Jules:
    Dec 29, 2018 at 12:53 AM

    Fascinating article. Very in depth. My one question is: from where would Canada import cannabis? Are there countries currently exporting cannabis legally? Uraguay seems like the most economical source, although shipping costs could be an issue.

  2. miss lena:
    Feb 24, 2019 at 01:52 PM


    All labels will need to be plain, not appealing to children, and make no health claims. For edibles, there may be no dietary claims, and for topicals, there may be no cosmetic claims. For all of the new product classes, packaging and labelling must not contain any elements that associate the product with an alcoholic beverage, alcohol, or an alcohol brand.

  3. miss lena:
    Feb 24, 2019 at 01:52 PM

    All labels will need to be plain, not appealing to children, and make no health claims. For edibles, there may be no dietary claims, and for topicals, there may be no cosmetic claims. For all of the new product classes, packaging and labelling must not contain any elements that associate the product with an alcoholic beverage, alcohol, or an alcohol brand.






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