Import and export of cannabis by licence holders under the Cannabis Regulations
On October 17, 2018, the Cannabis Act came into force, putting in place a new comprehensive public health approach with the key objectives of protecting youth from accessing cannabis and keeping profits out of the pockets of criminals and organized crime. Along with its regulations, the Cannabis Act creates a legal and regulatory framework for controlling the production, distribution, sale and possession of cannabis in Canada.
This bulletin outlines the limited circumstances under which Health Canada would consider the import or export of cannabis, consistent with the Cannabis Act, Cannabis Regulations and the international drug treaties to which Canada is a Party.
The import and export provisions for cannabis implement Canada's international drug treaty obligations. Canada is a Party to the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961 as amended by the 1972 Protocol, the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, 1971, and the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, 1988. Health Canada has an obligation to maintain control over the movement of cannabis in a manner consistent with these international drug control conventions. The import and export of cannabis may only be authorized for medical and scientific purposes and within the parameters set by the international drug conventions.
The Cannabis Regulations set out the restrictions pertaining to the import and export of cannabis. Only licence holders under the Cannabis Regulations may import or export cannabis-and only for medical or scientific purposes. Under the Cannabis Act and its Regulations, the import and export of cannabis for any other purpose (such as distribution or sale for non-medical purposes) is strictly prohibited.
Consistent with international drug conventions, importing or exporting cannabis for medical or scientific purposes requires a permit from Health Canada for each shipment. While each application will be assessed on its merit, Health Canada's general policy is to issue import or export permits only in limited circumstances, such as:
- Importing starting materials (e.g., seeds, plants) for a new licence holder;
- Exporting cannabis products to another country that has a legal regime for access to cannabis for medical purposes; or
- Importing or exporting small quantities of cannabis for scientific purposes (e.g., research or testing).
Before issuing an import or export permit, Health Canada considers the following:
- Canada's obligations under international treaties;
- Whether the application is consistent with the relevant provisions in the Cannabis Act and its regulations;
- Whether the import or export will be used solely for medical or scientific purposes;
- In the case of exports, whether the country of final destination has issued an import permit;
- Whether there are risks to public health given that imported products are not subject to the same strict production standards or Health Canada inspections;
- Whether there are risks to public safety and security, including the risks of diversion; and
- For the import or export of drugs containing cannabis, whether import/export requirements of the Food and Drugs Act and its regulations have been met.
While the import or export of industrial hemp grain or seed also require an import or export permit issued under the Industrial Hemp Regulations, the considerations set out in this bulletin do not apply to the issuance of such permits.
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