When is an ad an ad when it comes to medical cannabis?
For example, a simple act of identification of a pharmacy as a medicinal cannabis supplier or compounder is unlikely to be an act of promotion of the use or supply of medicinal cannabis. Such an act is likely to fall short of supporting or encouraging use or supply and, even if it were considered to so support or encourage, it may be more appropriately characterised as the promotion of health services.
However, the inclusion of additional claims, for example, on the use of the products specified or named medical conditions means the material is advertising of that medicinal cannabis product.
The advertising of medicinal cannabis directly to consumers is prohibited by the Act. However:
It would be acceptable, however, for the advertisement to include a link to the TGA’s guidance on medicinal cannabis, provided it is not used in a promotional way. The patient information on the TGA website would be particularly appropriate.
Care must be taken when including in published material links to external information about medicinal cannabis so that it is not viewed as promotional and in breach of the advertising provisions in the Act. You should be confident that you are able to support the veracity of the external information you use or reference.
Using the term medicinal cannabis – context is key
The promotion of health services inherently involving therapeutic goods can be done in such a way that it does not promote the use or supply of those therapeutic goods which are to be used in the delivery of those services.
It is the context and total presentation in which ‘medicinal cannabis’ appears that will determine whether the promotion is seen as one of health services or promotion of the supply or use of therapeutic goods.
This is appropriately judged having regard to the whole take out message and the likely effect on the average reasonable consumer to whom the promotional material is directed.
References to medicinal cannabis in the context of promotion of the availability of particular services (for example, pain management) without identifying (say by the use of images) specific medicinal cannabis products may not be the promotion for the use therapeutic goods. Rather it may be considered as the promotion of the availability of the relevant health services. This would likely be the case if the therapies for which medicinal cannabis may be used were being offered alongside therapeutic and non-therapeutic alternatives.