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Differentiating cannabis products in the Canadian landscape

Now that cannabis is being legalized, Health Canada has put in place some strict requirements on how products (recreational and medicinal) can be packaged and labelled. Packaging must be uniform-coloured with a standardized stop sign-like cannabis symbol at a minimum size. Branding or graphics are not allowed, except for the company logo, which can be no larger than the cannabis symbol. Additionally, a bright yellow label with the following warnings must be included:

  • Cannabis smoke is harmful

  • Do not use if pregnant or breastfeeding

  • Do not drive or operate machinery after using cannabis

  • Cannabis can be addictive

  • Regular use of cannabis can increase the risk of psychosis and schizophrenia

  • Adolescents are at greater risk of harms from cannabis

These restrictions will make it difficult for legal producers to differentiate themselves from other legal producers and products on the black market. Is Health Canada being too strict, considering alcohol has no such warnings and data to merit these warnings is limited? Perhaps the warnings will evolve after legalization and further experience with cannabis. One thing is for sure, we can look forward to increasing amounts of clinical research on the safety and efficacy of cannabis; investigating specific indications and formulations will be important points of differentiation among cannabis brands in the Canadian landscape.

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