Grow facilities now required up front for new cannabis producers

File photo of medical cannabis in production. (FatCamera/iStock/Getty Images)

Growers and processors seeking federal licenses to produce and/or process cannabis in Canada will now have to have their proposed sites “fully built” before they even apply.

Health Canada announced Wednesday that the change takes effect immediately, saying it would better line up the cannabis sector with the approach the department already follows for approvals in pharmaceutical processing and other federally regulated sectors.

Besides, a review of the licensing process followed up until now for cannabis production and processing sites showed the resources being used could be better allocated, the department said in a statement.

Over 70 per cent of the applicants who’ve successfully passed Health Canada’s initial “paper-based” review of their applications over the past three years haven’t yet submitted evidence to show they have a “built facility” that meets federal requirements, the department said Wednesday.

Thus, Health Canada said, a “significant amount of resources are being used to review applications from entities that are not ready to begin operations, contributing to wait times for more mature applications and an inefficient allocation of resources.”

Up until now, Health Canada has only required certain details in advance about an applicant’s proposed site — for example, its physical address, site surveys, zoning, proposed facility layout, security plans and copies of the notices provided to authorities such as local government, police and fire safety officials.

Then, once Health Canada completed its review of an application, the applicant would have received a “confirmation of readiness” email. The applicant would then be prompted to provide information “to demonstrate that there is a functioning facility/building at the site address” and pre-license inspections then followed when required.

‘Maturing market’

The new approach, in effect from Wednesday onward, stemmed from applicants’ feedback about the time it can take to become licensed — “and the fact that there is now a larger number of applicants seeking to enter a growing and maturing legal market.”

Canada today has over 600,000 square metres (about 148 acres) of space under active cultivation, Health Canada said.

Based on standard industry averages, the department said, that’s enough to grow about 1,000 tonnes of cannabis per year — “roughly equivalent to independent estimates of the total cannabis (legal and illegal) consumed in Canada.”

Apart from the new rule, there are no changes to the licensing regulations themselves and Health Canada “will continue to inspect all facilities before a licence to sell products to the public is issued.”

As for any application “currently in the queue” at Health Canada as of Wednesday, the department said it will complete a “high-level review” for each.

If the application passes that review, the applicant will get a “status update” letter indicating Health Canada “has no concerns with what is proposed in the application.”

Health Canada said it will then review each of those applications in detail, in priority based on the original application date, “once the applicant has a completed site that meets the regulatory requirements.”

An updated licensing application guide is expected to be available online “shortly.” — Glacier FarmMedia Network

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