As Canadian licensed producers of medical cannabis scrambled to increase cultivation capacity in the months leading up to recreational legalization, the agency responsible for regulating marijuana cultivation was busy ramping up inspections and issuing new licenses.
Health Canada almost quadrupled the number of presale inspections conducted on licensed producers (LPs) between 2017 and 2018, according to new data shared with Marijuana Business Daily.
According to the data, Health Canada conducted 22 presale inspections in 2017, but that number rose to 71 in the first 10 months of this year – before the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR) were repealed Oct. 17 and the Cannabis Act came into force.
The percentage of LPs found to meet all applicable regulatory requirements of those inspections was 86% in 2017 and 92% in 2018.
Meanwhile, more than 600 applications were at various stages of review as of early November.
Since May 2017, 191 expansion amendments, which allow license holders to increase production capacity, have been issued.
In the months leading up to legalization, Canadian regulators approved new cultivation space at a frantic pace, but it wasn’t fast enough to avert the widely predicted shortage of legal cannabis.
To cope with the growing number of applicants, Health Canada tripled its capacity to review licenses and process security clearances compared to May 2017.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) also tripled its capacity to process security clearances and will double it again over the next six to eight months, according to Health Canada.
New security clearance applications that are now required under the Cannabis Regulations will see a two-phased approach.
The first phase will involve verification of the results of a criminal record check by the RCMP. Pending a positive outcome, an initial security clearance may be granted (on behalf of the Minister) while the second phase of background research is conducted.
Those initial security clearances would be granted for up to one year.
Deepak Anand, vice president of Toronto consultancy Cannabis Compliance, said Health Canada is going through the application process quicker as a result of the changes.
“It impacts late-stage applicants that have ‘Confirmation of Readiness’ in place,” he said. “It will expedite the process significantly for them.”
Health Canada set up new, distinct teams to review applications for new micro, research and analytical testing licence classes .
“This is good news for applicants of micro cultivation and processing licences, as well as research and testing,” Anand said.
“In other words they will not be in line behind 600-plus outstanding ACMPR applications.”