Update on Medical Marihuana Production Licencing

Implementation of the new Federal Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) is underway. The new regulations are expected to come into full force on April 1, 2014. Health Canada has received a total of 180 applications so far from individuals or companies seeking to become certified producers and has issued production two licences so far.

Under the new regulation applicants for a producers licence are required to notify their local government, local police force and local fire officials of their intention to apply to Health Canada, so that local authorities are aware of their proposed location and activities. The intent is to provide local government with the opportunity to comment on the applicant or application. When notified of an application for a commercial marihuana facility, local governments will need to notify the federal government as to whether or not the zoning permits the production facility in the specified location and any other concerns the community may have.

In preparing for these changes, local governments will need to ensure that it has the administrative procedures in place to respond to licence applications. Those local governments wanting to regulate or prohibit the location of commercial producers within their borders will need to amend their zoning bylaw to ensure that it addresses the siting of medical marihuana producers.

UBCM wrote to federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose in June to draw attention to a gap in the federal licensing process that could allow an application to be approved which does not meet local government regulations. UBCM asked that, as a matter of federal policy, an application for a licence be considered incomplete if it does not show that it is in compliance with local government regulations. UBCM will be following up with the Minister and Health Canada for a response.

Licences Under the Previous Regulation

As of October 1, 2013, Health Canada is no longer accepting new applications for production licences under the previous Medical Marihuana Access Regulations (MMAR) or applications to change the location of, or number of plants at, an existing production site. Those individuals that have licences to grow medical marihuana under the old regulation will expire and are expected to move to the new regulatory scheme for medical marihuana use by April 1, 2014.

The transition from the old medical marihuana regulation to the new regulation may create some challenges for local government. Health Canada has indicated that it is not able to provide the location of existing medical marihuana sites as they are protected from disclosure under the Privacy Act. This may create some issues in ensuring that production ceases and the premises are properly remediated upon the expiry of the licences under the old regulation. To partly address this issue local government may wish to file a Freedom of Information request with the Health Canada to verify how many licences have been issued in their area, for example, Surrey was able to confirm that in 2013 there were 788 licensed medical marihuana production sites in the community. Law enforcement officials in the process of an investigation are able to contact the federal government to verify information related to authorizations and licences issued under the old regulation.

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