Accurate and honest cannabis branding should be the next best step for the budding industry if it wishes to stave off false advertising and product liability lawsuits, according to the one of the authors of a new report on the industry.
The report out this week from Prohibition Partners, a U.K.-based cannabis intelligence and data firm, WELCOME TO THE NEW NORMAL, lays out the industry drivers that have “paved the way for a new form of cannabis consumer as well as the brands and businesses that are embracing this change.”
The 60-page report offers a multifaceted look at the industry to this point, however it weighs in heavily on the branding of cannabis and Cannabidiol, or CBD, a non-psychoactive substance increasingly used in beauty products, health and wellness products, and food and beverages.
Stephen Murphy, one of the report’s authors and cofounder and executive director of Prohibition Partners, was asked about the emphasis on branding in the report and whether he was concerned that the claims of CBD and cannabis being touted too often as a cure-all could lead to consumer lawsuits.
“Yeah absolutely,” Murphy said. “We’ve got a plant that is meant to be organic and meant to be transparent.”
Murphy believes more “quality control” is needed in communications from the industry to the public, such as labeling, branding, marketing and advertising, and that companies should be held accountable for the claims being made about their products.
“I do think there is a mismatch between what consumers know about cannabis and what is being touted and promoted about cannabis,” Murphy said.
He addressed wide-ranging health claims about cannabis, some of them as far-fetched as positing it as a potential cure for cancer, saying such claims may be doing cannabis more harm than good.
“It is damaging the credibility of cannabis to a certain degree,” he said. “Claiming that it’s the savior to all things and all manners is wrong.”
The report notes that cannabis labeling and messaging “are often unclear, making it impossible for consumers to discriminate between products on the efficacy and authenticity of their claims.”
Brands are coming under fire for what’s being called on social media “#WeedWashing,” when they advertise products as containing CBD but instead only contain hemp seed oil, something that threatens the credibility of the compound and creates confusion and skepticism around the health benefits.
“As cannabis and CBD is normalised, we may see a return of the leaf on packaging to reclaim credibility and differentiate the legitimate from the snake oil,” the report states. “However for the current market, photogenic packaging is even more crucial considering paid advertising has been banned on many platforms including Google, Instagram and Facebook.”
Murphy believes there’s another danger posed by haphazard branding that goes beyond lawsuits – and that’s the possibility that consumers will start to view cannabis and CBD as just another trend they expect to eventually see go by the wayside.
“What we’re trying to get through (to people) is that cannabis isn’t just a novelty factor,” Murphy said.
Murphy said that cannabis should be promoted for its known qualities, including as a way to reduce anxiety and pain, help with sleep, improve appetite and mood, and limit inflammation.
“There’s a lot of qualities of cannabis that brands can gain from and apply to their product and as a point of differentiation for consumers,” Murphy said.
He added, “There is a whole non-psychoactive part of this plant.”
According to the report, the global CBD market is predicted to be worth $2.1 billion by 2020, while CBD in the beauty industry along is projected to reach S$959 million by 2024.
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