Types of cannabis and industrial hemp licences

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You need a licence from Health Canada to do activities with cannabis and industrial hemp. This page describes the different types and combinations of licences, and provides links for applying for or managing your licence, and import and export permits.

Disclaimer: You need to read this page along with the Cannabis Act and the Cannabis Regulations. If there are differences between this page and the Cannabis Act and the Cannabis Regulations, the Act and the Regulations are correct.

Grow cannabis

A cultivation (micro, nursery, standard) licence allows you to grow cannabis indoors and outdoors by cultivating, propagating and harvesting.

This licence also allows you to:

  • possess cannabis
  • do limited processing activities indoors, if necessary, such as:
    • drying, trimming and milling for micro and standard cultivation licences
    • drying for nursery licences
  • do analytical testing of cannabis
  • do research and development within your authorized activities, such as developing new growing procedures (tissue culture, cloning techniques, trying different nutrients)

If you want to do research outside of your authorized activities, you need to apply for a research licence. This includes research such as sensory testing (organoleptic) of cannabis. For example, taste testing dried cannabis to assess its flavour profile.

Outdoor cultivation

You can grow cannabis outdoors. You can also do trimming and harvesting activities outdoors during harvest periods. However, you need to do all other processing activities (for example, drying, milling, trimming, storing and testing cannabis) inside a licensed building at a site.

Cultivation licences

Micro-cultivation licence

A micro cultivation licence allows you to produce cannabis plants and seeds, and fresh and dried cannabis. With this licence, you can use a grow surface area (plant canopy) of up to 200 m2. There’s no size limit for areas used for non-cultivation activities and storage. For more information about calculating the grow surface areas, refer to Micro-cultivation, nursery and micro-processing.

Nursery licence

A nursery licence allows you to produce cannabis plants and seeds for starting materials. With this licence, you can:

  • use a grow surface area (plant canopy) of up to 50 m2 for budding and flowering plants. There’s no size limit for non-budding and non-flowering plants, such as cannabis in their vegetative stage (mother plants, plant cuttings or clones) 
  • have up to 5 kg of harvested flowering heads at any given time (except seeds). You must destroy flowering heads (except seeds), leaves and branches within 30 days of harvesting them

For more information about determining the grow surface areas, refer to Micro-cultivation, nursery and micro-processing.

Standard cultivation licence

A standard cultivation licence allows you to produce cannabis plants and seeds, and fresh and dried cannabis with no size limit on grow surface areas (plant canopies).

Selling cannabis with a cultivation licence

Tables 1 and 2 provide a summary of the types of cannabis that cultivation licence holders can sell and distribute.

Table 1: Stages and types of cannabis micro and standard cultivation licence holders can sell
Stage of cannabis Type of cannabis Who you can sell to

Bulk or wholesale

  • Plants
  • Seeds
  • Micro or standard cultivation licence holders
  • Nursery licence holders
  • Micro or standard processing licence holders
  • Analytical testing licence holders
  • Research licence holders
  • Cannabis drug licence holders
  • Fresh
  • Dried
  • Micro or standard cultivation licence holders
  • Micro or standard processing licence holders
  • Analytical testing licence holders
  • Research licence holders
  • Cannabis drug licence holders

Packaged and labelled
for retail
(cannabis products)

  • Plants
  • Seeds
  • Micro or standard cultivation licence holders
  • Nursery licence holders
  • Micro or standard processing licence holders
  • Sale for medical purposes licence holders
  • Analytical testing licence holders
  • Research licence holders
  • Cannabis drug licence holders
  • Provincial and territorial authorized retailer (non-medical sale)
  • Fresh
  • Dried
  • Micro or standard cultivation licence holders
  • Micro or standard processing licence holders
  • Analytical testing licence holders
  • Research licence holders
  • Cannabis drug licence holders

Note: This table shows the most common scenarios; refer to subsection 11(5) of the Cannabis Regulations for more information.

Table 2: Stages and types of cannabis nursery licence holders can sell
Stage of cannabis Type of cannabis Who you can sell to

Bulk or wholesale

  • Plants
  • Seeds
  • Micro or standard cultivation licence holders
  • Nursery licence holders
  • Micro or standard processing licence holders
  • Analytical testing licence holders
  • Research licence holders
  • Cannabis drug licence holders

Packaged and labelled
for retail
(cannabis products)

  • Plants
  • Seeds
  • Micro or standard cultivation licence holders
  • Nursery licence holders
  • Micro or standard processing licence holders
  • Sale for medical purposes licence holders
  • Analytical testing licence holders
  • Research licence holders
  • Cannabis drug licence holders
  • Provincial and territorial authorized retailer (non-medical sale)

Note: This table shows the most common scenarios; refer to subsection 14(5) of the Cannabis Regulations for more information.

Process cannabis

A processing (micro and standard) licence allows you to process harvested cannabis and industrial hemp. Industrial hemp is a cannabis plant that has a low concentration of THC (0.3% or less) in flowering heads and leaves. This licence doesn’t allow you to grow cannabis.

This licence also allows you to:

  • possess all types of cannabis
  • process cannabis into bulk or wholesale and packaged and labelled products
  • do analytical testing of cannabis
  • do research and development within your authorized activities, such as developing new processing procedures (formulation, extraction methods)

Post-harvesting activities you have to do indoors with a processing licence include:

  • drying
  • trimming
  • milling
  • packaging and labelling
  • extracting THC and CBD from cannabis to make cannabis extracts, such as by:
    • chemical processes. For example, using ethanol or carbon dioxide solvents to make concentrates, isolates, resin, shatter and wax
    • physical processes. For example, sifting, beating, rubbing or other mechanical actions to separate trichomes from fresh or dried cannabis to make kief or hashish
    • heating or pressurized processes. For example, cooking to make rosin
  • processing cannabis into:

Tip: How to determine your cannabis product type: You’ll have consider both the definition of each type of cannabis and its intended use of your cannabis product.

  • A body soap bar containing CBD isolates (a topical with cannabis extract) may be a cannabis topical. This is because it’s exclusively intended to be applied on hair, skin or nails, directly or indirectly
  • A chocolate containing cannabis oil (an edible with cannabis extract) may be an edible cannabis. This is because it’s intended to be consumed in the same manner as food
  • A pre-roll mixed with kief (dried cannabis with cannabis extract) is a cannabis extract. This is because it’s:
    • made from extracting THC and CBD from cannabis
    • made from extracted cannabis

Important: Depending on your cannabis type, you’ll have to meet the applicable testing requirements and the product requirements in Part 5 and Part 6 of the Cannabis Regulations

If you want to do research outside of your authorized activities, you need to apply for a research licence. This includes research such as sensory testing (organoleptic) of cannabis. For example, taste testing edible cannabis (chocolates) to assess its flavour profile.

Processing licences

Micro-processing licence

A micro-processing licence allows you to produce all types of cannabis. However, you can’t produce cannabis synthetically, such as through chemical reactions or recombinant bacteria. You can only possess up to 600 kg of dried cannabis each calendar year, or its equivalent amount. This doesn’t apply to you if the only cannabis you possess is grown from your own micro-cultivation licence at the same site. For more information about the possession of cannabis limit, refer to Micro-cultivation, nursery and micro-processing.

Standard processing licence

A standard processing licence allows you to produce all types of cannabis with no limit on cannabis possession.

Selling cannabis with a processing licence

When you first get a new processing licence, there are restrictions on what you can sell.

The tables below provide a summary of the stages and types of cannabis that processing licence holders can sell and distribute at initial licensing and after a licence amendment. For packaged and labelled cannabis topical, extracts and edibles, you’re restricted to who you can sell to at initial licensing. You’ll need to submit an amendment application to change your licence if you want to remove this restriction.

Table 3: Stages and types of cannabis micro and standard processing licence holders can sell at initial licensing
Stage of cannabis Type of cannabis Who you can sell to

Bulk or wholesale

  • Plants
  • Seeds
  • Micro or standard cultivation licence holders
  • Nursery licence holders
  • Micro or standard processing licence holders
  • Analytical testing licence holders
  • Research licence holders
  • Cannabis drug licence holders
  • Fresh
  • Dried
  • Micro or standard cultivation licence holders
  • Micro or standard processing licence holders
  • Analytical testing licence holders
  • Research licence holders
  • Cannabis drug licence holders
  • Topicals
  • Extracts
  • Edibles
  • Micro or standard processing licence holders
  • Analytical testing licence holders
  • Research licence holders
  • Cannabis drug licence holders

Packaged and labelled
for retail
(cannabis products)

  • Plants
  • Seeds
  • Micro or standard cultivation licence holders
  • Nursery licence holders
  • Micro or standard processing licence holders
  • Sale for medical purposes licence holders
  • Analytical testing licence holders
  • Research licence holders
  • Cannabis drug licence holders
  • Provincial and territorial authorized retailer (non-medical sale)
  • Fresh
  • Dried
  • Micro or standard cultivation licence holders
  • Micro or standard processing licence holders
  • Sale for medical purposes licence holders
  • Analytical testing licence holders
  • Research licence holders
  • Cannabis drug licence holders
  • Provincial and territorial authorized retailer (non-medical sale)
  • Topicals
  • Extracts
  • Edibles
  • Micro or standard processing licence holders
  • Analytical testing licence holders
  • Research licence holders
  • Cannabis drug licence holders

With additional sales
amendment
: Packaged and
labelled for retail
(cannabis products)

  • Topicals
  • Extracts
  • Edibles
  • Sale for medical purposes licence holders
  • Provincial and territorial authorized retailer (non-medical sale)

Note: This table shows the most common scenarios; refer to subsection 17(5) of the Cannabis Regulations  for more information.

Sell cannabis for medical purposes

A sale for medical purposes licence allows you to sell or distribute packaged and labelled cannabis to registered clients for medical purpose.

Sale for medical purposes with possession licences

This licence also allows you to:

  • possess packaged and labelled cannabis
  • sell and distribute packaged and labelled cannabis
  • register clients and do sales transactions

You can have this licence alone or combine it with others at the same site. If you combine this licence with a micro-cultivation, nursery or micro-processing licence, you’ll need to have in place the physical security requirements of a standard licence.

Sale for medical purposes without possession licences

For a licence without possession of cannabis, you can have this licence either alone, or you can combine it with a micro-cultivation, nursery or micro-processing licence at the same site. You can’t have a licence for sale for medical purpose with possession and without possession at the same time.

On its own

On its own, this licence allows you to:

  • sell another licence holder’s packaged and labelled cannabis without possessing it on your site
  • register clients and do sales transactions

This licence doesn’t allow you to have cannabis on your site. You’d coordinate the sale with a holder of a licence with a cultivation, nursery or processing licence. That other licence holder would fulfill the order and distribute directly to your registered client. This licence also doesn’t allow you to sell directly to provincial and territorial authorized retailers (non-medical sale).

If you only want this licence, you‘ll only need to meet the requirements for a sale for medical purposes without possession licence.

Combined with another licence

You can combine a sale for medical purposes without possession licence with a:

  • micro-cultivation licence
  • nursery licence
  • micro-processing licence

You’ll have to meet the physical security measures for all of the licences on your site. Combined with another licence, the sale for medical purposes without possession licence allows you to:

  • sell and distribute cannabis from your micro-cultivation, nursery, or micro-processing licence directly to registered clients on behalf of your sale for medical purposes without possession licence
    • micro-cultivation licences are allowed to distribute cannabis plants and seeds, and fresh and dried cannabis
    • nursery licences are allowed to distribute cannabis plants and seeds
    • micro-processing licences are allowed to distribute all types of packaged and labelled cannabis products on your site (with amendment, where applicable)
  • sell another licence holder’s packaged and labelled cannabis without possessing it on your site. You’d coordinate the sale with the other licence holder. That other licence holder will fulfill the order and distribute directly to your registered client
  • register clients and do sales transactions

You’ll have the same authorizations to sell and distribute non-medical cannabis as your combined micro-cultivation, nursery or micro-processing licence.

Note: When micro-processing licences are combined with a sale for medical purposes without possession licence, you are only allowed to possess up to 600 kg of dried cannabis, or its equivalent amount, on your site per calendar year. For more information about calculating the possession of cannabis limit, refer to Micro-cultivation, nursery and micro-processing.

Selling cannabis with a sale for medical purposes licence

This table provides a summary of the types of packaged and labelled cannabis that sale for medical purposes licence holders can sell and distribute.

Table 4: Stages and types of cannabis sale for medical purposes licence holders can sell
Stage of cannabis Type of cannabis Who you can sell to

Packaged and labelled
(cannabis products by
a licensed cultivator
or processor)

  • Plants
  • Seeds
  • Registered clients
  • Micro or standard cultivation licence holders
  • Nursery licence holders
  • Micro or standard processing licence holders
  • Sale for medical purposes licence holders
  • Analytical testing licence holders
  • Research licence holders
  • Cannabis drug licence holders
  • Fresh
  • Dried
  • Registered clients
  • Hospitals
  • Micro or standard cultivation licence holders
  • Micro or standard processing licence holders
  • Sale for medical purposes licence holders
  • Analytical testing licence holders
  • Research licence holders
  • Cannabis drug licence holders
  • Topicals
  • Extracts
  • Edibles
  • Registered clients
  • Hospitals
  • Micro or standard processing licence holders
  • Sale for medical purposes licence holders
  • Analytical testing licence holders
  • Research licence holders
  • Cannabis drug licence holders

Note: This table shows the most common scenarios; refer to subsection 27(1) of the Cannabis Regulations for more information.

Test cannabis

Analytical testing licence

An analytical testing licence allows you to do analytical testing of cannabis, including for other licence holders. This includes the required testing before cannabis can be sold to sale for medical purposes licence holders, registered clients, and provincial and territorial authorized retailers (non-medical sale). You must destroy the cannabis sample and all cannabis obtained from that sample within 90 days of completing the test. If you don’t start the test within 120 days of receiving the cannabis sample, then you must, by the end of this period, either destroy it or distribute it to:

This licence also allows you to:

  • possess cannabis for analytical testing
  • obtain cannabis by altering its chemical or physical properties
  • distribute cannabis to another analytical testing licence holder for the purpose of testing
  • do research and development within your authorized activities, such as development and validation of testing methodologies

Analytical testing activities you can do with an analytical testing licence include testing for:

  • cannabinoid content
  • microbial and chemical (including pesticides) contaminants
  • dissolution or disintegration
  • sterility or stability

If you want to do research outside of your authorized activities, you need to apply for a research licence. This includes research such as sensory testing (organoleptic) of cannabis. For example, taste testing edible cannabis (chocolates) to assess its flavour profile.

Research with cannabis 

Research licence

A research licence allows you to do research and development with cannabis, including research outside the authorized activities for other cannabis licences.

This licence also allows you to, for the purpose of research:

  • possess cannabis
  • grow cannabis
  • produce cannabis
  • transport, send or deliver cannabis between your licensed sites
  • administer and distribute any types of cannabis to a human participant, for example:
    • conduct sensory testing with individuals by ingestion, inhalation, or applied on hair, skin or nails, indirectly or directly. For example, taste testing edible cannabis (chocolates) to assess its flavour profile
  • do research activities, such as:

in vivo and in vitro studies, cultivation (including plant genetics), cannabis product development, non-cannabis product development and other research (for example, educational programs)

Depending on your research activities with cannabis, you may need to submit more information. If it’s part of a clinical trial, you need to get a No Objection Letter (NOL). If it involves animals (in vivo), you may need to get a Veterinary Drug Experimental Studies Certificate (ESC).

Selling or distributing cannabis with a research licence

Research licences generally do not authorize the sale of cannabis, except in specific circumstances where a researcher may be permitted by Health Canada to sell the physical product of their research (plants or seeds only). Distribution to other licence holders and selected individuals is permitted and is not considered sale. Distribution would include, for example, sending cannabis to another research licence holder who is a partner in a research project, or sending cannabis to an analytical testing licence holder for testing.

The tables below provide a summary of the stages and types of cannabis that research licence holders can sell (only if authorized by Health Canada) or distribute.

Table 5: Stages and types of cannabis research licence holders can sell (only if sale is authorized on your licence)
Stage of cannabis Type of cannabis Who you can sell to

Bulk or wholesale

  • Plants
  • Seeds
  • Micro or standard cultivation licence holders
  • Nursery licence holders
  • Research licence holders
  • Cannabis drug licence holders
  • A person exempted under section 140 of the Cannabis Act

Note: This table shows the most common scenarios; refer to section 28 of the Cannabis Regulations for more information.

Table 6: Stages and types of cannabis research licence holders can distribute
Stage of cannabis Type of cannabis Who you can distribute to

Bulk or wholesale

  • Plants
  • Seeds
  • Micro or standard cultivation licence holders
  • Nursery licence holders
  • Analytical testing licence holders
  • Research licence holders
  • Cannabis drug licence holders
  • Human participants in a research study
  • A person exempted under section 140 of the Cannabis Act
  • Fresh
  • Dried
  • Topicals
  • Extracts
  • Edibles
  • Analytical testing licence holders
  • Research licence holders
  • Cannabis drug licence holders
  • Human participants  in a research study
  • A person exempted under section 140 of the Cannabis Act

Note: This table shows the most common scenarios; refer to section 28 of the Cannabis Regulations for more information.

Produce and sell drugs containing cannabis

Cannabis drug licence

A cannabis drug licence allows you to work with drugs containing cannabis.

This licence also allows you to:

  • possess cannabis
  • produce a drug containing cannabis
  • sell or distribute drugs containing cannabis

You need to follow the Food and Drug Regulations, such as Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) requirements, to produce a drug containing cannabis. In certain cases, you’ll also need a drug establishment licence (DEL) with your cannabis drug licence.

This licence doesn’t allow you to administer cannabis or cannabis drugs to a human participant. If you want to do this, you need to apply for a research licence.

Selling, distributing or receiving drugs containing cannabis

The table below provides a summary of the drugs containing cannabis a holder of a cannabis drug licence can sell, distribute or receive.

Table 7: Selling, distributing or receiving drugs containing cannabis
Activities with drugs containing cannabis Who you can sell or distribute to, or return from
  • Sell or distribute
  • For the purpose of return or destruction, receive from
  • Analytical testing licence holders
  • Research licence holders
  • Cannabis drug licence holders
  • Pharmacists
  • Practitioners
  • Hospital employees with authorization
  • Sell or distribute only
  • A person exempted under section 140 of the Cannabis Act
  • Sell or distribute for destruction only
  • All licence holders
  • Licensed dealer

Note: This table shows the most common scenarios; refer to section 143 of the Cannabis Regulations for more information.

Grow, produce and sell industrial hemp

Industrial hemp licence

An industrial hemp licence allows you to work with industrial hemp. Industrial hemp is a cannabis plant – or any part of that plant- that has a concentration of THC (0.3% or less) in flowering heads and leaves.

This licence also allows you to:

  • grow industrial hemp (including propagation as a plant breeder)
  • possess industrial hemp, including:
    • rendering grain non-viable
    • preparing (conditioning) seed
    • processing or making products from the grain (such as hemp seed oil)
  • sell industrial hemp. You can only sell flowering heads, leaves or branches of the industrial hemp to an industrial hemp or cannabis licence holder

If you want to make products from the flowering heads, leaves or branches of industrial hemp, you need a cannabis processing licence. This includes extracting CBD from flowering heads, leaves or branches of the industrial hemp.

Combining licences at a single site

You can combine certain cultivation, processing and sale for medical purposes licences at the same site. You can also add to your site:

  • an analytical testing licence
  • a research licence
  • a cannabis drug licence
  • an industrial hemp licence

Note: You can combine cultivation, processing and sale for medical purposes licences into one Cannabis Tracking and Licensing System (CTLS) application. You’ll need to submit a separate licence application for each of these other licences (research, analytical testing, cannabis drug licence or industrial hemp).

Table 8: Combinations allowed for cultivation, processing and sale for medical purposes licences at a single site
Type of licence Micro-cultivation Nursery Standard cultivation Micro-processing Standard processing Sale for medical purposes with possession Sale for medical purposes without possession
Micro-cultivation n/a No No Yes No YesFootnote 1Footnote 2 YesFootnote 1
Nursery No n/a No No No YesFootnote 1Footnote 2 YesFootnote 1
Standard cultivation No No n/a No Yes Yes No
Micro-processing Yes No No n/a No YesFootnote 1Footnote 2 YesFootnote 1
Standard processing No No Yes No n/a Yes No
Sale for medical purposes with possession YesFootnote 1Footnote 2 YesFootnote 1Footnote 2 Yes YesFootnote 1Footnote 2 Yes n/a No
Sale for medical purposes without possession YesFootnote 1 YesFootnote 1 No YesFootnote 1 No No n/a
Footnote 1

You can’t have a licence for sale for medical purpose with and without possession at the same time.

Return to footnote 1 referrer

Footnote 2

You’ll need to meet the extra physical security requirements for the sale for medical purpose with possession licence. 

Return to footnote 2 referrer

Footnote 3

Not applicable

Return to footnote n/a referrer

Apply for a licence or manage your licence

If you want to apply for a cannabis or an industrial hemp licence, or if you already have one of these licences and would like to modify or renew it, refer to the table below for the applicable references for each licence type.

Table 9: References for applying for a licence and managing your licence
Licence type To apply To manage or renew
  • Cultivation (micro, nursery and standard) licence
  • Processing (micro, standard) licence
  • Sale for medical purposes licence

Cannabis licensing application: Cultivation, processing and sale for medical purposes 

Manage your cannabis licence 

Analytical testing licence

 

Cannabis licensing application guide: Analytical testing 

Email sp-licensing-cannabis-licences-sp@hc-sc.gc.ca

Research licence

 

Cannabis licensing application guide: Research  

Email sp-licensing-cannabis-licences-sp@hc-sc.gc.ca

Cannabis drug licence

 

Application for a cannabis drug licence

Email sp-licensing-cannabis-licences-sp@hc-sc.gc.ca

Industrial hemp licence

 

Industrial hemp licensing application guide 

Email hemp-chanvre@hc-sc.gc.ca  

Important: You may need to apply for a cannabis licence from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). You should submit the CRA licence application at the same time as Health Canada’s cannabis licence application. For general questions, email cannabis@cra-arc.gc.ca.

Import and export

Cannabis

You need a cannabis licence to import or export cannabis. You can only import or export cannabis for medical or scientific purposes. You’re strictly prohibited from importing and exporting cannabis for any other purpose (such as distributing for non-medical purposes). You’ll also need to apply for an import or export permit (for each shipment) to import cannabis into Canada or export cannabis to other countries.

Industrial hemp

You need an industrial hemp licence to import or export industrial hemp (grains and seeds). You’ll also need to apply for an import or export permit (for each shipment) to import industrial hemp into Canada or export industrial hemp to other countries.

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