Original cannabis journalism for Canadians

A trip to the Ontario Cannabis Store

An artist's rendering of what a future Ontario Cannabis Store might look like. (Illustration: Graeme Bruce / The Leaf News / J.P. Moczulski / The Canadian Press)

In the not-too-distant future, Ontarians will be lining up to buy legal cannabis at — where else? — the Ontario Cannabis Store.

According to an online announcement this morning, that will be the official brand name of stores operated by the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation, a subsidiary of the government-owned Liquor Control Board of Ontario.

In a statement released to Ontario talk radio station Newstalk 1010, the LCBO said it's paying marketing agency Leo Burnett consultant about $650,000 to develop the Ontario Cannabis Store name, logo, and other brand elements.

OCS (not to be confused with the OSC, Ontario's capital markets regulator, or the other OCS, Health Canada's Office of Controlled Substances) might not be the most exciting name the Ontario government could have chosen for its weed stores.

But what else were you expecting? "Kathleen Wynne's Kush Shack"? "Dank Nugs of Upper Canada?"

Given Ontario's focus on public health and harm reduction through cannabis legalization, the name was never going to be that much fun.

The Twitterati are making their own fun today, teasing the new name to no end. But one expert in vice branding thinks Ontario got it right.

Jenn Larry is president of cannabis marketing firm CBD Strategy Group, which she founded last August. She has experience marketing tobacco, music, online gambling, and pharmaceuticals — "anything that's a heavily regulated category," in her words.

The name "Ontario Cannabis Store" makes sense from the province's perspective, said Larry in a Friday phone interview.

"They just wanted it to be easily identifiable, and I think it is."

"It's not different than calling something the 'liquor store,' or 'the convenience store,'" said Larry.

"And it certainly adheres to the law of not using promotional elements in names that could in anyway be suggestive," she added, referring to provisions in the federal Cannabis Act.

To Larry, the sparse, black-and-white OCS logo "kind of looks like a stamp."

"Which is what they intended to do. If their point was to actually be 'the sole legal retailer of non-medical cannabis,' as they say, then creating something that in some way looks like a seal of approval or a stamp works."

"It's clean, classy, and to the point," added Larry. "I think they're showing us that cannabis brands don't need cannabis leaves in them in order to have a place in the future industry."

Brand perception is entirely subjective, of course. But even if Ontarians don't like the new name, the Ontario Cannabis will have one enormous advantage that's sure to keep shoppers coming back: no one else can legally compete.


New on The Leaf

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  • Here comes the money: Ontario is giving its municipalities their initial shares of cannabis excise tax revenue ahead of time, to the tune of $40 million.
  • Growing together: Aurora Cannabis has finally closed its big merger with CanniMed Therapeutics. That means one of Canada's biggest legal cannabis companies is getting even bigger.

Elsewhere on the Weed Wide Web

  • Latest on cannabis prices: Statistics Canada has released the latest price data from its "StatsCannabis" crowdsourcing project. In February, Canadians who reported their cannabis purchases to the government agency paid an average of $6.83 per gram.
  • The trouble with smoking bans: Ottawa's public health agency recommended banning smoking — and vaping — of cannabis in condos and apartments. As a U.S. consultant pointed out to CBC News, that's a recipe for lawlessness.
  • Secrets of the stars: Hollywood's Charlize Theron reveals she uses marijuana to treat insomnia. Her supplier? That's a family affair.

What Next

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