About the process: Cannabis security clearances
On this page
- Security clearance process
- How long it takes
- Who needs a security clearance
- Responsibilities of security clearance holders
- Suspension, reinstatement and cancellation
- Contact us
Disclaimer: You need to read these pages along with relevant sections of the Cannabis Act and its Regulations. If there are differences, the Act and its Regulations are correct. If there are differences between these pages and the Cannabis Tracking and Licensing System (CTLS), these pages are correct.
Security clearance process
The security clearance (SC) process assesses if an applicant could pose an unacceptable risk to public health or public safety. This includes the risk of cannabis being diverted to an illicit market or activity.
Health Canada reviews your SC application and does security checks including, but not limited to:
- a domestic criminal record check
- a foreign criminal record check, if applicable
- a law enforcement record check (LERC) that contains:
- publicly available information
- intelligence information gathered for law enforcement purposes
- interactions with police including events that didn’t lead to a charge or conviction (such as calling to make a complaint about a neighbour)
If concerning information comes up in the security checks, you’ll have an opportunity to explain the circumstances and provide any relevant context.
There are many factors considered to allow for a fair assessment of a wide range of situations. It can include:
- associations with organized crime
- involvement or contribution to an act or threat of violence
- circumstances of any relevant offences, such as seriousness, number and frequency, how long ago it happened
- reasonable suspicion that the applicant’s activities, including financial, are a risk to the legal cannabis industry
- reasonable suspicion that the applicant could be made to commit an act that can constitute a risk to public health or public safety, including the risk of cannabis being diverted to an illicit market or activity
These factors aren’t the only ones considered in determining the risk posed by an applicant.
If you, or someone you associate with, has a criminal history, Health Canada won’t necessarily refuse your SC application. A cannabis-related criminal history may not prevent you from getting a SC. A refusal to grant a SC depends on whether Health Canada determines that the collected information suggests that an applicant could pose an unacceptable risk to public health and safety. Health Canada takes into consideration relevant factors, including those outlined above in making a decision. For example, depending on circumstances, Health Canada may grant a SC to someone who took part in non-violent, lower-risk criminal activity at some point in their past.
Health Canada will review all the information collected and conduct a risk assessment. If necessary, Health Canada will consult with law enforcement partners before issuing a decision. You’ll either:
- get approved and be granted a SC
- get denied and be refused a SC
The number of SC applications granted is much higher than the number refused. Health Canada decides on a case-by-case basis and in the past, the approval rate has been more than 95%.
How long it takes
The processing of a SC application varies as each case is unique. For most, it can take a few months. For others, it can take longer if Health Canada needs to do consultations. Some rare cases can take over a year to complete.
To avoid delays in processing, you need to:
- provide a valid government-issued photo ID
- submit a complete, accurate and truthful application
- check all documents you upload are complete, intact, legible and valid
- respond quickly to a request for more information (RMI) if you receive one
- complete all fields of the application and required forms including signature and dates
- update your information in the CTLS as soon as any changes occur, including mailing and email addresses
The steps in the CTLS will provide instructions, tips and important information on what’s required to complete your application.
Here are examples of factors that can influence the processing timelines:
- multiple addresses or employers
- information revealed by security checks
- consultation with law enforcement partners
- personal travel, work, study or residence abroad
- response time from partner agencies, including fingerprinting processing time
Who needs a security clearance
The following people require a SC:
If you aren’t sure if someone requires a SC, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Health Canada can request additional people to hold a SC, either by name or position.
If your SC is valid, you can use it for multiple roles, with the same licence holder or different ones. You can’t use a security clearance from other government departments or programs for a cannabis licence.
When you’re determining who needs a SC for a parent (owning) company and licence applicant or holder, you’ll need to consider who has direct control. It refers to anyone that’s positioned to directly:
- influence a company’s management and operations
- have a say in a company’s management and operations
This includes, but not limited to, directors and officers such as chief executive officer, chief financial officer, or director of operations. Key investors might have direct control, and would also require a SC.
Parent (owning) company
If the applicant or licence holder is owned by another company
- Anyone in the parent (owning) company that has or will have direct control over any corporation, cooperative, or partnership. Includes, but not limited to, directors and officers.
Applicants and licence holders
If the applicant or licence holder is an individual
- The applicant or licence holder
If the applicant or licence holder is a corporation
- The directors and officers of the corporation
- Anyone who has or will have direct control over the corporation
- The directors and officers of any corporation or cooperative that has or will have direct control over the corporation
- Anyone who is a partner in a partnership that has or will have direct control over the corporation
- The directors and officers of any corporation that’s a partner in a partnership that has or will have direct control over the corporation
If the applicant or licence holder is a cooperative
- The directors and officers of the cooperative
- Anyone who has or will have direct control over the cooperative
- The directors and officers of any corporation or cooperative that has or will have direct control over the cooperative
- Anyone who is a partner in a partnership that has direct or will have control over the cooperative
- The directors and officers of any corporation that’s a partner in a partnership that has or will have direct control over the cooperative
If the applicant or licence holder is a partnership
- Anyone who is a partner of the partnership
- The directors and officers of any corporation or cooperative that’s a partner of the partnership
- Anyone who is a partner in a partnership that has or will have direct control over the partnership
- The directors and officers of any corporation that’s a partner in a partnership that has or will have direct control over the partnership
Key site personnel
The key site personnel requiring a SC will depend on the type of licence.
|Roles||Cultivation||Processing||Sale for medical purposes|
|Responsible person and their alternate||Required||Required||Required||Required||Required||Required|
|Head of security and their alternate||Required||Required||Required||Required||Required||Required|
|Master grower and their alternate||Required||Required||Required||Not required||Not required||Not required|
|Quality assurance person (QAP) and their alternates||Not required||Not required||Not required||Required||Required||Not required|
Refer to the Licensing application guide for the responsibilities of each of the key site personnel.
Responsibilities of security clearance holders
While you hold a SC, you need to let Health Canada know of new charges or convictions under the Cannabis Act, Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) and Criminal Code. If you don’t disclose this information, it can lead to suspension or revocation of your SC. Send an email to email@example.com as soon as possible. The subject line should be “Notification of charges or convictions”. Include in your email:
- your CTLS account ID
- what’s the charge or conviction
- where it happened (city, province or state, country)
- when it happened
- status or outcome, including conditional and absolute discharges
Health Canada will review the information you provide. Health Canada can suspend your SC if it’s determined that the charges or convictions pose an unacceptable risk against relevant factors.
Suspension, reinstatement and cancellation
Health Canada can suspend a SC if there’s a reasonable suspicion that the risk to public health or public safety posed by the holder has become unacceptable. This includes the risk of cannabis being diverted to an illicit market or activity.
If Health Canada’s considering suspending your SC application, the following will happen.
- Your SC will be suspended as soon as Health Canada mails you a notice. The notice will outline the reasons for the suspension. It’ll state how much time you have to respond, from the date on the notice. The responsible person of the linked licence is also notified of the suspension in writing. You won’t be able to perform your duties during the suspension.
- You’ll need to respond to the notice and provide any relevant information to your situation.
- If you need more time, email firstname.lastname@example.org. The subject line should be “Request for additional time to respond to suspension notice”. Include in your email:
- your SEC #
- reasons for extension
- amount of time requested
- Health Canada will consider your request and respond.
- The length of a suspension varies, it depends on when Health Canada receives a response and the time it takes to decide. After considering your response, Health Canada can reinstate or cancel your SC. Health Canada will mail you and the responsible person of the linked licence the final decision.
If you want to apply again, you need to wait 5 years after the cancellation, unless the circumstances have changed. If the circumstances have changed and you want to reapply earlier, email email@example.com. The subject line should be “Applying after cancellation of SEC #”. Include in your email how the circumstances leading to the cancellation have changed.
Health Canada is committed to providing all stakeholders with timely, accurate and reliable information.
For questions about the SC process or your SC application, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For questions about the suspension, reinstatement or cancellation of a SC, email email@example.com.
For questions about who needs a SC, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For questions about a new licence application or existing licence, email email@example.com.
For general questions or comments, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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