Cannabis Prospect Magazine - September '19 - Issue #4

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Public Relations Why Cannabis Continues to Dominate the News By Carol Levine APR, Fellow CPRS


ctober 17, 2018 will most likely go down in our national history as the date that changed Canadian society. Factually, the story began earlier than that, and the practice of public relations was quickly viewed by industry pioneers as a strategic marketing function. This should not come as a surprise. Consuming cannabis was highly stigmatized because if you wanted to use it, your access was through a black market. Whether you were a recreational user or took cannabis to relive health-related symptoms, your path was generally clandestine. This changed in 2014. For thousands of Canadians, the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) followed by the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations, opened legal access to medical cannabis with the world’s most rigorous medical cannabis guidelines. Five years ago, when you could finally obtain cannabis legally via an authorization from your doctor, one of the key PR objectives for the handful of licensed producers was to elevate the reputation of cannabis. PR pros sought to create a new narrative by changing the language from “dope”, “pot” and “weed” to “cannabis” and “cannabinoids”. With a belief that words matter, it became important to speak differently about cannabis in order explode stereotypes and myths, and to begin to be taken seriously. Messaging about pharmaceutical grade cannabis, product safety and rigorous production standards were disseminated in order to build trust among consumers and prescribers. Yet despite semantics, overall awareness was and continues to be a barrier to optimizing industry potential. And