Canada Restricts Words Like ‘Soda’ and ‘Cola’ on Weed Labels

Stephen Andrews
24 Jul 2023

Health Canada has reportedly asked licensed cannabis operators to stop the use of certain words such as “soda,” “cola,” “root beer,” or “ginger ale” on the labels of infused beverages. The government agency believes that these words are too appealing to young people, hence the warning.

Canada has strict labeling and promotion requirements for Cannabis. The same is true for many newer legal states in the US, where regulators generally ask manufacturers not to use flashy and colorful packaging that mimics the look of regular candy or similar products that children and young people might find attractive. 

For example, New York packaging and advertising regulation has a special section that warns against attractive packaging to individuals under twenty-one. Therefore, producers are not allowed to use cartoons, bubble-type or other cartoon-like fonts. Neither can they use bright colors and words like “candy” or any variants in spelling such as “kandy” or “kandeez” (the only exception is if it’s part of the name of a cultivar). 

According to the latest updates coming from Health Canada, there’s no longer room for words such as “soda” or “cola” on canna drinks labels for the same reason that this kind of wording might look alluring to the younger populations. 

According to MjBizDaily, Health Canada sent out an email where it requested businesses to “cease all non-compliant promotion and labelling of cannabis.” The federal regulator has warned that the aforementioned words “may result in the sale of cannabis with packaging/labeling that is prohibited.” 

What Would Be the Impact for Businesses? 

The new request would impact a significant number of Canadian brands whose main offer is drinkables. Carbonated cannabis drinks are currently among the most popular products on the market. They account for around 60% of all cannabis beverages sales in Canada. Limiting what words can be used on labels could affect a large number of those brands, including some of the country's best-selling beverage brands. About half of all brands will be affected. 

Industry experts believe that this is a step too far from Health Canada. It is unclear what kind of words can substitute for those like “cola” or “soda.”

“The array of beverages available to adults in a store where kids cannot go has improved significantly, but many companies will be put out of business by these prohibitions on nomenclature that are not rooted in science,” George Smitherman, CEO of the industry group Cannabis Council of Canada, said in a statement for business info publisher MjBizDaily.

A spokesperson from Health Canada told the publisher that the agency’s decisions about whether a product is appealing to young people are made “based on the facts of each case and after considering a range of factors.” Those factors include the product’s shape, its color, smell, flavor and the way it’s presented on the market. 

“The terms ‘soda,’, ‘cola,’ ‘root beer’ and ‘ginger ale’ are considered potentially appealing to youth because they commonly refer to a soft drink, which is one of the examples set out as being prohibited under the policy statement,” the spokesperson said. 

Health Canada can take enforcement action to address non-compliance with any requirement that aims to protect interests of public health and safety. 

Stephen Andrews