Cannabis is not legal worldwide, and in fact, a vast majority of countries still prohibit adult-use cannabis, unfortunately. However, a growing list of countries is exploring how to legalize cannabis for adult use and a significant number of countries already permit medical cannabis companies to operate legally within their borders.
On top of that, several cannabis companies now legally import and export medical cannabis across international borders and oceans. The international cannabis industry is marching across the globe and it’s only a matter of time before many countries get completely on the right side of history when it comes to cannabis policy.
The rise of the legal international cannabis industry will presumably be paralleled by an increase in cannabis industry advertising. After all, advertising is how companies in virtually every industry let the public know about their offerings, and the cannabis industry is no exception from that standpoint. Unfortunately, if the United Nations has its way advertising will not be an option for legal cannabis companies.
Global Ban On Advertising
In late June the United Nations called for a complete global ban on cannabis industry advertising, likening such a ban to various tobacco industry advertising prohibitions around the world.
“A comprehensive ban on advertising, promoting and sponsoring cannabis would ensure that public health interests prevail over business interests,” the United Nations stated via its annual World Drug Report, which is published yearly by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.
“Such a ban would need to apply across all jurisdictions,” the report went on to say.
Part of the ‘justification’ for such an advertising ban is that government-tracked potency for cannabis has risen in recent decades and the UN is apparently afraid of the increased potency leading to increased issues among youth. It’s absolutely worth noting that potent cannabis is not a new thing, with potent cannabis being available in many nations for many years. Availability of potent cannabis has certainly increased in recent years, however, potent cannabis itself is not a new phenomenon.
Banning Cannabis Advertising Would Be Hypocritical
Fortunately for cannabis advocates, the United Nations’ call for cannabis advertising is not binding. Member nations of the UN would need to take it upon themselves to implement and enforce bans on cannabis industry advertising. The United Nations’ call for a ban is just a recommendation.
A ban on tobacco advertising makes sense given that tobacco products are responsible for an estimated 8 million-plus international deaths annually according to the World Health Organization. The tobacco industry has engaged in deceptive advertising practices throughout the years, and prohibiting tobacco products from being advertised is logical.
Alcohol advertising can be found all over the globe, with many jurisdictions seeming to embrace the alcohol industry and its advertising. That advertising occurs despite alcohol being considerably more harmful than cannabis. At least one peer-reviewed study found that cannabis is 114 times safer than alcohol. According to the World Health Organization, roughly 1 out of every 20 deaths worldwide are the result of alcohol use, including deaths caused by accidents, suicide, and murder.
The same cannot be said about cannabis. No one has died from ingesting/inhaling cannabinoids in recorded human history, and the emerging cannabis industry has not had a track record of deceptive advertising compared to the tobacco industry. To be fair, the legal tobacco industry has been around for far longer than the legal cannabis industry, however, regulation would make more sense in regards to cannabis industry advertising versus a complete prohibition of the practice.
Johnny Green is the Media and Content Director for the International Cannabis Business Conference. Upcoming conferences include Berlin (August 25-27), Zurich (August 31-September 1), and Barcelona (October 7).