Health Canada still processing new cannabis licenses during COVID-19 crisis

Health Canada says it will continue reviewing applications for new cannabis licenses and security-clearance applications during the COVID-19 pandemic, but applicants might face some delays.

That news could come as some consolation to would-be Canadian cannabis businesses who are awaiting their licenses and security clearances during a time of acute economic uncertainty.

Earlier this week, Health Canada informed existing holders of federal cannabis licenses that it was prioritizing amendments and security-clearance applications for current licensees.

A limited number of on-site licensing inspections are still being carried out, Health Canada told license holders in a recent letter, with some inspections prioritized while others are postponed.

The letter also outlined other temporary changes to Health Canada’s regulation of cannabis in light of COVID-19, including granting license holders the ability to temporarily designate security-cleared individuals and postponing a deadline for a regulatory reporting obligation.

The letter sent Tuesday made no mention of Health Canada’s approach to applications for new cannabis licenses.

Now, Health Canada has confirmed to Marijuana Business Daily that new cannabis license and security-clearance applications are still being considered.

“With respect to new license applications, Health Canada continues to review and assess evidence packages for fully built sites and to process associated security-clearance applications,” a Health Canada spokeswoman wrote in an email to MJBizDaily.

“However, given that review staff are working remotely and we are prioritizing some licensing activities, applicants may experience some disruptions or delays in the services we provide and in our response time. Applicants can continue to check the status of their application in the Cannabis Tracking and Licensing System.”

Janeen Davis, director of business development with cannabis licensing consultancy BC Cannabis Group, said some of her clients have been concerned about the effect of COVID-19 on Health Canada’s capacity to process new cannabis license applications.

Her advice to new applicants is to submit the best possible application the first time around in order to avoid delays when the regulator seeks more information.

“The less back-and-forth, the less (requests for more information) on the application, will speed up the processing time … I think that the onus is going to be put on the consultants and the applicants to work their hardest to submit as-perfect-as-possible applications, in order to ease the burden on both sides,” Davis said.

Health Canada’s statement to MJBizDaily did not specify how long the delays to new licensing might last.

However, the regulator said its adjusted approach during COVID-19 will be in place until May 1, when the policy will be reevaluated.

“As well, the Department reserves the ability to make further adjustments at any point in the days and weeks ahead,” the spokeswoman noted.

There are currently 337 federally licensed cultivators, processors and sellers.

Solomon Israel is a reporter for Marijuana Business Daily, based in Winnipeg. He can be reached at

For more of Marijuana Business Daily’s ongoing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic and its effects on the cannabis industry, click here.