Health Canada is recruiting the help of kids as young as five years old for advice about what warnings to put on marijuana products. The goal is to decide which warning symbols would be most effective at discouraging children in the compulsory labeling of pot products, and it plans to make a final decision before the country legalizes recreational weed on October 17 this year.
In a report to the department back in January, the purpose of the symbol is clear: “To prevent accidental ingestion of products containing cannabis, in particular by children and youth.” A contract, awarded to Earnscliffe Strategy Group, worth almost $60,000, is doing focus group testing in three different locations, namely Quebec City, Vancouver and Toronto.
The consultancy firm interviewed kids in three age groups, children between the ages of five years and nine years, tweens aged between 10-years and 12-years, and it conducted focus groups with teens and adults. The top choice of participants is both “attention-grabbing” and “foreboding, according to the newly posted report, with one of the possible choices being the age-old red stop sign.
The report notes that the warning symbol will have a “triple-layered message.” It will have the recognizable shape of a stop sign, with a white leaf on a red background and the letters THC written in white on black. Viewed as a “conversation-starter” for children, including the THC acronym has the purpose of getting kids to ask their parents questions about marijuana.
The Symbol Options
In total, the Canadian government created seven symbols and presented all of them as possible choices, which included variations in color and size. Researchers found that size of the symbols did not matter much to the children and had no impact on their interpretation of it, despite being easier to see. Those with triangular and circular shapes did not mean anything to them, particularly to the younger kids.
There were no problems with the octagon symbol, which the report says, “Was referred to as a stop sign, inferring meaning to all participants immediately.” This must be true, since stop signs are universally familiar to near everyone on earth. The red background “conveyed a sense of warning, caution and danger,” and the yellow background had little impact, particularly among younger children.
Public Proposals Made in March
In March, the Trudeau administration announced its proposals for how it plans to label and regulate recreational cannabis when it becomes legal in a few months. The proposals included mandatory warning labels, as well as a ban on any packaging that, either intentionally designed or potential easy to misconstrue, could appeal to young people. On March 19, Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Tayler said:
“We have heard loud and clear from provinces and territories and also from stakeholders that they need to have this information regarding packaging as soon as possible. So we are very comfortable with the information that has been brought forward with respect to the specifics of the labeling and the packaging and the warning sign that is going to be on all types of cannabis products.”