Cannabis law update – Health Canada prioritizing applicants with fully built facilities

Publication May 2019

On May 8, Health Canada announced that, effective immediately, all new applicants for a licence to cultivate, process, or sell cannabis for medical purposes are required to have a fully built site that meets the regulatory requirements at the time of the application. In addition, Health Canada will be reviewing all outstanding applications to prioritize those associated with a fully built site.

Those applicants who have a site that meets the new requirements should expect to receive a status update letter from Health Canada indicating their application may proceed. According to Health Canada’s announcement, existing applicants who do not have a completed site will be reviewed in priority based on the original application date once a site is completed.

Previously, Health Canada only required applicants to submit documentation relating to the proposed site, such as a site survey, a description of the zoning requirements of the proposed site and adjacent lots, and an aerial view of the proposed site. According to Health Canada, this change is being implemented to prioritize applications from applicants ready to begin operations. Health Canada reports that more than 70% of applicants who have passed the initial application review have not yet demonstrated they have a facility that meets regulatory requirements, which contributes to wait times for other applications.

Health Canada will be releasing additional guidance and materials to support applicants’ efforts to meet regulatory requirements, including establishing service standards, updating its guidance and supporting Indigenous-affiliated and micro-class applicants.

Bottom line

  • Existing applicants: Applicants who have a fully built site that meets regulatory requirements will be prioritized over other applicants (applies to applications for cultivation, processing and sale for medical purposes licences). Health Canada will contact applicants whose applications will be prioritized.
  • New applicants: Health Canada will only accept new applications for cultivation, processing, or sale for medical purposes licences if the applicant can demonstrate it has a fully built site that meets regulatory requirements.
  • Service standards: Health Canada is working to establish service standards for its application review process.
  • Guidance: Health Canada will be publishing updates to its Cannabis Licensing Application Guide.
  • Indigenous-affiliated applicants: Health Canada is working to enhance support to Indigenous-affiliated applicants through its Indigenous Navigator Service.
  • Micro-class applicants: Health Canada will implement additional measures to support micro-class applicants.

You can read the full Health Canada announcement here. Stay tuned for further updates.

The author wishes to thank articling student Daniel Weiss for his help in preparing this legal update.

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