Canadian cannabis license approvals at multiyear low amid market turbulence

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Canada’s ultra-competitive legal marijuana industry is drawing fewer new entrants than ever as existing businesses continue to exit.

New federal licenses have dropped to a record low, while the number of revoked or expired licenses doubled over the course of one year, according to the latest federal data.

The figures on new, existing and inactivated licenses were updated Monday.

Health Canada licensed only four new sites in September 2023, down from 11 in August.

That’s a significant drop from 2022, when 12 and 22 new sites were licensed in August and September, respectively.

Many of Canada’s large licensed producers (LPs) are facing challenging business prospects amid:

Those difficult circumstances appear to be steering would-be investors and entrepreneurs away from entering the market, the data suggests, as the number of prospective federal licensees continues to decline.

The total number of applicants in the queue stood at 107 in September 2023, down from 163 approximately one year earlier.

The September 2023 figure is 87% lower than December 2018, when almost 840 site applications were in the pipeline.

Canada legalized recreational cannabis in October 2018.

As of September 2023, applications in the queue stood at:

  • 39 for a standard cultivation license.
  • 61 for a micro-class licenses.
  • 3 for a nursery license.

In addition, there were four applications for a “sale for medical purposes only” license.

The total number of inactivated licenses continues to climb, reaching 222 as of September 2023.

Licenses may be deemed “inactivated” for a variety of reasons.

Of the 222 inactivated licenses as of September 2023:

  • 187 were revoked since legalization at the request of the holder.
  • 4 were revoked by Health Canada.
  • 31 had expired.

In September 2022, a year earlier, only 109 federal cannabis licenses had been inactivated.

However, the total number of federal licensees in Canada continues to be at, or near, and all-time high, despite challenging microeconomic and macroeconomic conditions.

As of September 30, 2023, there were 947 federal license holders in Canada.

In September 2022 and September 2021, there were approximately 906 and 771 licensees, respectively.

As of September 2023, licenses issued stood at:

  • 472 standard licenses.
  • 410 micro-class licenses.
  • 25 nursery licenses.
  • 40 licenses for ‘Sale for medical purposes only’.

Most of the excess production in the Canadian market is thought to be stemming from standard license holders, which have no canopy size limit.

Standard licensees have remained steady.

The number of standard licensees stood at:

  • 471 in June 2022.
  • 476 in September 2022.
  • 472 in September 2023.