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Executive Summaries May 24, 2019

Health Canada Is Changing its Cannabis Licensing Process

On May 8, Health Canada issued a statement announcing changes to the cannabis licensing process.

Henceforth, when filing a licence application, applicants will no longer be able to only file plans for their production site. Health Canada will now require new applicants for licences to cultivate, process, or sell cannabis for medical purposes under the Cannabis Act and its regulations to have a fully constructed site that meets the requirements of the Cannabis Regulations at the time they submit their application.

These changes will have a significant impact on the time required to obtain funding for licence applicants to build the necessary facilities, as well as for applications already filed with Health Canada.

In fact, Health Canada specifies that a general review of currently pending application wills be conducted by the Department. In the event that an application successfully passes this review, the applicant must proceed with the construction of their facilities in accordance with the regulations. Following construction, the Department will review the request and facilities. The application process remains unchanged for existing applicants who have received a letter confirming readiness.

What are the objectives of the changes?

The changes aim to improve the administration of Health Canada's cannabis licensing program, optimise the use of resources and reduce application processing times. Indeed, it appears that a significant amount of resources are currently monopolised at the examination stage for applications where applicants are not yet ready to start their activities. This results in longer processing and issuance times.

According to Health Canada, more than 70% of applicants who have successfully passed the paper review stage in the past three years have not yet provided evidence of construction of their facilities in compliance with the regulatory requirements.

Applicants will now have to make significant investments prior to filing a licence application, but Health Canada hopes that these amendments will expedite the processing and issuance of licences under the Cannabis Act and its regulations.

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