Results at glance - Evaluation of Health Canada’s Administration of Licensing of Producers of Cannabis for Medical Purposes 2013-14 to 2017-18

Introduction

The purpose of the evaluation was to assess the design and delivery of Health Canada's administration of licensing of producers of cannabis for medical purposes under the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR) and the prior version of these regulations, for the period of September 1, 2014 to June 30, 2017.

Background

Canadians who have been authorized by their health care practitioner to access cannabis for medical purposes have the option of purchasing quality-controlled cannabis from one of the producers licensed by Health Canada.

Heath Canada's Office of Medical Cannabis (OMC), within the Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Branch, is responsible for administering the licensing of producers of cannabis for medical purposes, in collaboration with the Regulatory Operations and Regions Branch.

What the evaluation found

Health Canada has adopted a prudent approach to administering the initial roll-out of the licensing program within a context of high public interest, ongoing refinements to the regulatory framework, and funding constraints.

The licensing program has been generally successful, given that there have been sufficient quantities of quality-controlled cannabis available to eligible Canadians, with a high level of licensed producer (LP) compliance with regulations, and without instances of diversion or significant risks to health and safety.

In late May 2017, the program introduced a number of improvements to the process of issuing licences. There remains, however, aspects of the program's delivery which could benefit from the introduction of an integrated electronic case management system, so as to reduce the risks presented to program operations. OMC reports that a system is in development and will be implemented in Summer 2018.

While LPs and applicants generally have access to information supporting an overall understanding of the licensing programs, there are some unmet information needs with regards to interpretation of regulations and status of applications.

OMC's actual expenditures were regularly three times higher than its budget appropriations from Parliament for the timeframe covered by this evaluation. This was due in large measure to the fact that the program's parliamentary appropriations were not adjusted in consideration of additional regulatory authority and workload until Fall 2017's Supplementary Estimates.

Other comparable licensing programs have adopted a cost recovery model as a way to fund their licensing of private goods.

Recommendations and responses

  1. Examine opportunities for modernizing the licensing process through a consolidated data system (such as a case management system), including an online interface, in support of increased efficiency and effectiveness of the licensing program.

    Response: Agree

  2. Develop internal and external communication processes, tools, and materials with the intent of increasing access by LPs and applicants to the information necessary to support informed business decision-making.

    Response: Agree

  3. Engage in risk-based reviews of compliance and enforcement activities as a means of increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the licensing program.

    Response: Agree

  4. Study options to allow for collection of fees and the introduction of service standards for the issuance of new and renewed licences, as well as import and export permits, in support of the timely provision of outputs and increased economy.

    Response: Agree

About this evaluation

This evaluation was completed by the Office of Audit and Evaluation in March 2018. Data collection methods included: document review, licensing application file review, survey of LPs, key informant interviews, financial data review, and comparative analysis with similar programs.

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