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Health Canada Makes Numerous Cannabis Operational Adjustments to Deal with COVID-19

Federally licensed cannabis producers received guidance from Health Canada this week regarding new regulatory measures that will be taken as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Health Canada is currently focusing its efforts on addressing the pandemic, but is also ensuring that its core program services are maintained so that regulated industries such as the cannabis sector can continue to operate during this time. In the letter, Health Canada recognizes the operational challenges that the pandemic has created for cannabis producers, and outlines the following adjustments to the enforcement of the Cannabis Act:

1.  License Issuance, Amendments and Renewals

Health Canada will be focusing its resources on license amendments to existing licenses and security clearance applications. These are both measures that cannabis producers have identified as top priorities. This likely means that any license applications in the queue for new facilities will be further delayed by the pandemic. Cannabis producers can email Health Canada at HC.licensing-cannabis-licenses.SC@canada.ca to identify any critical amendments required to support the producer’s operations during this time. 

Health Canada recognizes that there are currently a small number of licenses set to expire in the near future, but has reassured producers that they are working on final decisions for the renewal applications. Health Canada is currently considering measures such as renewal extensions for licenses that are set to expire within the next three months.

2.  Designation of Key Alternative Personnel

Cannabis producers will be temporarily allowed to designate alternate individuals to take over security cleared roles, such as responsible persons, master growers and heads of security, where the cannabis producer does not have sufficient personnel due to self-isolation or illness. The selection of such alternates should be based on the cannabis producer’s own internal risk assessment, and it is up to the cannabis producer to ensure that the individual is capable of fulfilling the role and that such individual has not previously had a security clearance refused, suspended or cancelled. 

All alternates must be reported to Health Canada by emailing HC.licensing-cannabis-licenses.SC@canada.ca with the cannabis producer’s license number and the word “COVID-19” in the subject line, as well as the name of the individual, their role and the date upon which they will assume the role in the body of the email. Cannabis producers will be required to have an appropriate risk mitigation plan in place in order to continue to meet the requirements of the Cannabis Act, regulations related to Good Production Practices, physical security and record keeping. Health Canada approval is still required for the addition of any Quality Assurance Persons.

3.  Inspections

Sales inspections requiring onsite visits will be postponed for at least the next few weeks. Any sales inspections that were planned in the coming weeks will likely be rescheduled. Health Canada will consider conducting inspections on a case-by-case basis. Any inspections that proceed will be focused on activities that represent the highest risk to public health and safety. 

4.  Reporting Requirements

Cannabis producers are still required to submit their cannabis tracking system reports on a monthly basis. Amendments may be made to the reports at a later date if needed.

The deadline for the 2019 annual promotions report has been extended to June 30, 2020 for any cannabis producers that are unable to report by March 31, 2020. Any challenges in meeting the reporting requirements should be sent to hc.ctls-bi-sscdl-ie.sc@canada.cawith the terms “promotions” and/or “monthly reporting” in the subject line. 

Health Canada has acknowledged that the measures implemented by the Canadian government in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic have impacted normal operations, however Health Canada is still prioritizing the protection of public health and safety and expects cannabis producers to continue to comply with the Cannabis Act. The above listed adjustments will continue in force until May 1, 2020, at which time they will be re-evaluated. 

Should you require assistance with any of your regulatory requirements or liaising with Health Canada, feel free to contact a member of the Torkin Manes’ Cannabis Law team.

For more information about dealing with COVID-19, please visit our COVID-19 Resource Center.

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