Busy time for Health Canada’s Office of Medical Cannabis

March and April were both busy months for Health Canada’s Office of Medical Cannabis, with five new licensed producers of medical cannabis added, and two new sales licenses being issued.

In March, the regulator issued three new cultivation licenses to, Ontario’s Del Shen Therapeutics, BC’s Evergreen Medicinal Supply Inc. and Alberta’s Acreage Pharms Ltd.

In April, one new licensed producer each in both Ontario and Manitoba received their cultivation licenses, and two others received their sales licenses. Manitoba’s Bonify Medical Cannabis received their cultivation license and Ontario’s MedReleaf received a cultivation license for their second facility in mid-April. Ontario’s Green Relief and WeedMD both received their sales licenses, and Manitoba’s Delta 9 began selling clones.

Except for a flurry of eight new licenses issued in March, 2014, over the past several years the average rate of approvals has been approximately one per month. But with the need to license potentially hundreds for commercial cannabis producers over the next few years due to recreational legalization, Health Canada has been ramping up their efforts. They recently even advertised for 15 new Program Directors.

Health Canada issues a cultivation license prior to issuing a sales license. Upon receiving their cultivation license (formerly called a production license), a licensed producer must then grow out, harvest, dry, process and pass testing for their cannabis before receiving a sales license. This process can take from about six months to well over a year, and allows the producer to build up a supply before going to market, as well as allowing the regulator to better ensure each new producer is able to adhere to the regulatory standards.

Currently, there are 43 cultivation licenses issued, and 29 sales licenses. Nineteen of these producers also have a sales license for cannabis oil, and another three with a cannabis oil production licenses that still awaiting a sales license. No producer has ever had a cultivation or sales license revoked or suspended.

On average, inspectors normally visit a licensed producer approximately once a month in a scheduled visit as well as random inspections. An inspection can last from several hours to, in some cases and depending on location, several days.

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