Canadian Regulators Loosen Restrictions on Industrial Hemp

In an endeavor to simplify the industrial hemp licensing process for the 2017 cultivation season, Health Canada has issued an exemption to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act for those involved in industrial hemp.

The country is facing many obstacles as they attempt to legalize, regulate, and normalize marijuana use. Canada has gotten tired of jumping through hoops when it comes to industrial hemp so they decided to take legislative action. Health Canada felt that moving forward with this exemption “better aligns regulation of industrial hemp with the demonstrated low public health and safety risk of the crop.” In other words, hemp is the furthest thing we need to worry about people abusing, so let’s treat it like any other agricultural commodity.

With this simplification in regulatory requirements, what does getting an industrial hemp license in Canada look like now?

  • Planting sites do not need to be pre-approved at time of application. Submission of GPS coordinates and maps are no longer required at the first application stage. Industrial hemp farmers are now able to designate their own cultivation plot, however, farmers must send a “Notification of Cultivation of Industrial Hemp” to the Office of Controlled Substances within 15 days of planting (after obtaining an official license).
  • The minimum acreage requirement for cultivating industrial hemp was removed.  
  • One industrial hemp license will cover all cultivation sites, reducing the number of licenses required.
  • If cultivating only for grain and fiber, the requirement to THC testing has been removed. THC testing is still mandatory for those cultivating for seed or to be on the List of Approved Cultivars (LOAC).
  • The expiration date has been extended to allow sales of products grown in the previous season until March of the following year.
  • Criminal background checks are now valid for one year since issue date.
  • The information needed to apply for a cultivation license has been reduced. Applicants now have to provide a simple declaration rather than submit evidence.
  • Applications will now be accepted digitally via email.

These nationwide modifications ease the barriers of entry into this economy-boosting commodity and open the door for a multitude of hemp-based businesses. This exemption not only applies to industrial hemp farmers but also anyone interested in importing, exporting, possessing, processing, and/or distributing industrial hemp.

For Canadians who are interested in getting involved in this historical movement, an industrial hemp license grants the right to…

  • Produce/Cultivate seed, grain, or fiber from industrial hemp
  • Breed new hemp cultivars
  • Sell and distribute industrial hemp and industrial hemp products (including seeds)
  • Process industrial hemp into products
  • Test the viability of hemp as grain
  • Import and Export industrial hemp to and from Canada

Applications must be submitted through the Office of Controlled Substances where the applicant will clarify their business plan (cultivate, process distribute, import/export, etc). Applicants must be over 18 years of age and, at least one applicant, must reside in Canada. A criminal background check will be issued — applications will be denied if there have been any drug offenses in the last 10 years. Health Canada reviews and screens all applications and approves licenses accordingly.

The Industrial Hemp Section of the Office of Controlled Substances can be reached directly via phone (613-954-7799) or email (hemp@hc-sc.gc.ca) regarding any application questions.

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