Do’s and Don’ts for Cannabis Photography in 2021

Canada’s legalization of cannabis has caused a massive surge in the cannabis market in the past couple years, and companies are capitalizing on this opportunity with cannabis product photography and other related types of content creation.

While it may seem like you can just take any type of photo of your product, the provincial regulatory bodies must approve images before you are allowed to use them. 

Let’s start with a quick definition of the governing bodies that regulate cannabis product photos. 

First, we have GS1, which stands for Global Standards 1. “[I]t is a not-for-profit organization that develops and maintains global standards for business communication.” The most notable of these standards are for the barcode.

Next we have the main provincial regulators in Canada:

The AGLC (Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commision), regulates alcoholic beverages, recreational cannabis and gaming related activities in Alberta. 

The SQDC (Société Québécoise du Cannabis / Québec Cannabis Corporation) is a subsidiary of the government, owned by SAQ (Quebec Alcohol Corporation) has a legislated monopoly on the sale of recreational cannabis within the province of Quebec. 

Next we have OCS (Ontario Cannabis Store/ Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation). It oversees online retail of recreation and cannabis to consumers, and wholesale distribution in Ontario. 

The Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB) oversees liquor and non-medical cannabis regulations. These are the rules and laws that govern B.C.’s private retail sale of liquor and non-medical cannabis.

Another notable one is the BCLDB (British Columbia Liquor Distribution Branch). The governmental body responsible for distributing alcohol and cannabis products in BC.


Now that we have an understanding of who regulates these photos, we have to talk about how you shouldn’t take photos. 

According to the Cannabis Act your content cannot induce or provoke viewers with the lifestyle associated with the product, so no pictures of cannabis at a party or social gathering.

  • While this is an excellent photo the Act and regulators would reject this as a potential promotional cannabis photo because it induces partying, smoking, gambling, etc. to the audience, which is prohibited by the Cannabis Act

So when wanting to make your content look interesting, make sure you keep the backgrounds abstract and colourful.


Each regulatory body, along with the GS1, has special requirements that cannabis product photos must meet. 


  • must clearly show the barcode on the packaging
  • must have a clipping path (tool used to remove background from an image) made for each of the products 


  • one shot must show all contents of the final product that the consumers receive
  • products must be on a white background 


  • any bags / pouches holding the product must appear full
  • products must be on a transparent background


  • all images to have 32px margin
  • products must be on a white background 


  • must show all contents from the final product that the consumers receive 
  • products must be on a transparent background 

ALL regulators require 15 degree elevation in camera angle.


  • Since this product is sold in Ontario, the OCS and GS1 guidelines apply to this photo. It meets all the requirements from both regulators; for GS1 the barcode is shown, there is a clipping path, and for OCS there is a 32 pixel margin and the product is on a white background

Gotham Studios has been providing cannabis product images since 2018, so if you don’t want to deal with the headache of all the rules, leave it to us!

Guide to Canadian Cannabis Marketing in 2021

Cannabis  Marketing Article 

With Canada’s legalization of cannabis in 2018 marketing for these products has increased dramatically and continues to rise each year. The current cannabis marketing forecast has 2021 at $4.6B which will potentially grow to $8.6B in 2026. So what can you do to stay ahead of the competition? Focus on cannabis content creation, but you need to make sure you do it properly. While some countries have yet to legalize the substance, Canada already has standards and regulations in place for use by advertising agencies for marketing and promotional services. 


The Cannabis Act and Cannabis Regulations – Promotion prohibitions regulates how cannabis companies are allowed to promote and market their products to the public. The act’s main purpose is to limit the reach of cannabis advertisements to young people.

For cannabis content creators, strict guidelines and requirements must be met in order for the promotion to be legal; failure to comply can result in large fines. 

These prohibitions apply to :

  • persons who produce, sell or distribute cannabis 
  • persons who sell or distribute cannabis accessories 
  • persons who provide cannabis-related services 
  • media organizations


What can I post on social media?

Many companies rely on social media to promote their products to consumers. However, the act restricts the type of cannabis content that companies can release on their own and on affiliated members’ social media accounts. 

The act emphasizes that “advertising towards minors is prohibited under any circumstance. Examples include adding the company logo on images that appeal to children, like candy or toys.

What you can do instead is to restrict access to the page or profile (Wired messenger suggests that you age lock your page or profile to at least 19 due to Alberta and Quebec having their legal cannabis age at 18). Many cannabis companies have implemented this solution to reduce the chance of minors looking through their pages. 

Can I use reviews and testimonials to sell my product? Not necessarily. The act prohibits promoting cannabis “by means of a testimonial or endorsement, however displayed or communicated” (Cannabis Act), and through sponsorships. 

Instead,emphasize the brand rather than the product in the advertisements. However, some companies still have testimonials without any consequences. Currently companies are using different versions of testimonials such as employee spotlights, YouTube videos from customers, and influencer campaigns to name a few (read wiremessenger’s article to learn more about that).

Influencer marketing can be an important marketing strategy for companies, but this type of promotion can be seen as endorsement. 

Can I post about what cannabis can be used for? Nope! 

The act prohibits inducements of any kind , so you cannot promote the lifestyle associated with their product or service. 

What you can do is to focus on brand-specific content instead, by making content that appeals to the target audience rather than the product (cannabis photography). 

I should at least be able to advertise the health benefits of cannabis? You can! But they have to be factual.

The law says that “Cannabis cannot be promoted in a manner that is false, misleading or deceptive or that is likely to create an erroneous impression abouts its … health effects”. So if you talk about health effects make sure you have the verified information to support your claim. 

To reduce the chance of misleading your audience focus on your company, your values, your mission, and about health in general

Now that you have an understanding of the guidelines, go make some legal cannabis content. Or give it to Gotham Studios to get the job done!

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