Two steps back…

Almost a year since the UN announced that they recognized the medical benefits of Cannabis, they are taking two steps back and recommending that the World Health Organization ban broadcast and online advertising for cannabis. On June 24, 2021, the UN announced its plans for further advertising restrictions on cannabis in countries where it is legal. 

Cannabis companies will be forced to develop strategies to advertise their products without using traditional forms of promotion. How could the acceptance of the UN’s proposal affect advertising and marketing? Advertising restrictions affect a company’s ability to market to potential customers.

The proposal

The UN’s World Health Organization is recommending that the WHO ban cannabis advertising online, claiming that “the use of social media for cannabis advertising, in particular, is growing exponentially.” The WHO’s justification for asking internet users to abstain from advertising cannabis brands can be found in its preamble. A preamble is a formal declaration from a global organization that lays out its beliefs and connections. Article 1 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control states that it is “founded on the following paragraphs 2, 3 and 4 of the [ 1961 ] Treaty [on the prevention of tobacco manufacture and trade]. It shall regulate the marketing and advertising of tobacco products.” 


This is the issue, cannabis is roped into the same category as tobacco. This shows the lack of education or understanding that the UN has of cannabis. It also creates a double standard because the alcohol industry has significantly fewer regulations for advertising yet kills more people.

Their recommendations… more like Canada

The UN recommended that countries should adopt stringent regulations on cannabis advertising to prevent marketing that could appeal to minors and encourage them to use cannabis. This applies more to the US than to Canada. Packaging in the Canadian market is already limited to basic colours and information.

The proposal also suggests that countries should “strictly control all public communications about cannabis,” and would prohibit adverts that are not based on scientific evidence or general health benefits. France, Germany, Netherlands, Portugal, and Switzerland have all established laws that take tighter control of cannabis advertising.

Limiting social

Cannabis companies will be able to produce limited social media content, specialized content for specific industry members, such as community forums. They will not be allowed to create visual or audiovisual content.


Cannabis businesses would need to register with the country where they are doing business and could face stiff fines if they are caught advertising their products without county approval. Finally, any non-government recognized entity is legally allowed the ability to advertise their offerings on behalf of their client or corporation.

If countries that legalize cannabis do not allow advertising, the UN may impose sanctions. On the other hand, countries that legalize cannabis, but allow unrestricted advertising, may be punished by the UN for violating the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

Government and beyond

For the Canadian market, these limitations may not come as much of a shock to us. Canadian cannabis companies have already been beyond creative in finding ways to build brand loyalty and promote their products while abiding by restrictions. By working with the government to build trust as the industry matures, we can work towards a better future for cannabis.

Last Updated on November 3, 2021 by Spencer Tropea

Spencer Tropea

Spencer Tropea

Spencer Tropea is a seasoned creative and certified cannabis sommelier with 15 years of experience in PR, design, and photography. He's worked with several prominent cannabis brands across North America, using his unique skills to craft engaging narratives that breathe life into the industry and the passionate people invloved.