Hemp and the hemp industry Frequently Asked Questions

New information on this topic will be available soon. In the meantime, please visit the Industrial hemp licensing application guide for current information on how to get an industrial hemp licence.

General Questions

About Applications

About Laws and Regulations

About Industrial Hemp Resources

General Questions

NEW - What is the relationship between the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) and the Industrial Hemp Regulations (IHR)?

The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) prohibits certain activities with controlled substances. Regulations under the CDSA, such as the Industrial Hemp Regulations (IHR), authorize certain activities with specific controlled substances.

More specifically, Cannabis is a controlled substance under the CDSA. Possession, trafficking, import, export and production of all varieties of Cannabis regardless of the tetrahydrocannabinol (tetrahydro-6,6,9-trimethyl-3-pentyl-6H-dibenzo[b,d]pyran-1-ol) content are prohibited unless authorized according to regulations or an exemption. The Industrial Hemp Regulations enable persons/companies to cultivate and process industrial hemp for commercial purposes through a licensing system.

What is the Industrial Hemp Regulation Program?

The Industrial Hemp Regulation Program permits Canadian farmers to grow low-TCH cannabis for industrial use, under controlled circumstances. This program administers the regulatory approval process for the commercial production of industrial hemp. It is comprised of a system of licences, permits and authorizations for all persons in Canada engaged in the cultivation, distribution, importation, exportation, and processing of industrial hemp. The program started on March 12, 1998, when the Industrial Hemp Regulations came into effect.

NEW - What is industrial hemp?

In the Industrial Hemp Regulations, industrial hemp includes Cannabis plants and plant parts, of any variety, that contains 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or less in the leaves and flowering heads.

Industrial hemp also includes the derivatives of industrial hemp plants and plant parts. These do not include the flowering parts or the leaves.

Examples of derivatives that are considered industrial hemp include: hemp seed oil (oil derived from seed or grain) and hemp flour.

Industrial hemp does not include:

  • Non-viable Cannabis seeds, except for their derivatives. While the derivatives of non-viable Cannabis seeds are considered to be industrial hemp, the non-viable seeds themselves are not industrial hemp;
  • Mature Cannabis stalks, when those stalks are stripped of their leaves, flowers, seeds, and branches;
  • Fiber derived from such mature Cannabis stalks.

Most activities with non-viable cannabis seeds, with bare mature cannabis stalks (without leaves, flowers, seeds, and branches), and with fiber derived from bare mature cannabis stalks, are not controlled under the CDSA. As such, they do not require authorization.

NEW - What is "production" of industrial hemp?

Cultivating, propagating and/or harvesting industrial hemp are included in production.

Industrial hemp production includes obtaining industrial hemp - e.g. viable grain or seed or their derivatives - by any method or process, including manufacturing or using any means to change the chemical or physical properties of industrial hemp and including also cultivating, propagating or harvesting industrial hemp.

Industrial hemp production is an activity that is authorized by a licence issued under the IHR, subject to the terms of the licence and to the regulations.

However, it is important to note that the production of derivatives or products made from whole industrial hemp plants, including sprouts, or the leaves, flowers or bracts of those plants, cannot be authorized by a licence issued under the IHR. Most activities with whole industrial hemp plants, including sprouts, or with the leaves, flowers or bracts of the plant, fall outside of the application of the IHR. These activities are controlled under the CDSA and are not authorized under the IHR.

Why did the government change its laws to allow the growing of hemp?

In the 1980s and 1990s, there was increased interest in the cultivation of industrial hemp as a potential source of new jobs in the agricultural and industrial sectors. As well, there was an increased need to develop alternative sources of fibre. Research conducted between 1994 and 1998 showed it could be successfully grown in Canada as a separate entity from cannabis (marijuana). With the demand and encouraging research findings, Health Canada chose to give the agricultural and industrial sectors the opportunity to grow and exploit industrial hemp in a controlled fashion. Laws were amended to allow for the cultivation of industrial hemp.

When was the first licence issued to permit the growth of industrial hemp for commercial purposes?

Although the growth of industrial hemp crops was previously permitted for scientific research purposes, the first licence to grow industrial hemp for commercial purposes was issued in May 1998.

What are the potential uses?

Fibre from stalks can be used in making paper, textiles, rope or twine, and construction materials. Grain from industrial hemp can be used in food products, cosmetics, plastics and fuel.

Is it easy to grow?

In other countries, industrial hemp has proven to be a hardy, fast growing, resilient and high yield crop. In Canada, industrial hemp has shown good potential as an alternative to be included in rotation with other, more traditional crops. Its short growth period of 85-120 days makes it well suited for cultivation in many parts of Canada. If planted at the proper time, it reportedly suppresses most weeds. Insect and disease problems must be managed like any other crop.

How is the program doing?

To get an overview of the Industrial Hemp Program and its progress in Canada, visit the page called Statistics, Reports & Fact Sheets on Hemp. It has up to date reports and fact sheets on the program and its activities.

About Applications

If I want a licence, when should I apply?

Licences expire in the calendar year in which they are issued. For cultivators, it is recommended that you submit your application for a cultivation licence 5 to 6 months prior to the growing season. You may apply for a licence as early as mid-November for the next growing season. To help ensure that applications are processed in a timely manner, please ensure that all of the required information is provided.

Where can I get an application form?

You can download most of the documentation you require from this website, or obtain copies from Health Canada's Regional Offices or the Office of Controlled Substances. Look under the Contact section of this website for the contact information of the Industrial Hemp Regulation Program.

Where do I send my application?

Your application should be sent to:

Office of Controlled Substances
Industrial Hemp Regulations Program
161 Goldenrod Drwy
AL 0300B
Ottawa ON K1A 0K9

What documents do I need to include with my application?

You must include the following documents and information:

  1. Original police criminal record check(s)
  2. Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates (for those cultivating)
  3. Original signatures on all documents
  4. Appropriate schedules with the industrial hemp licence application
  5. All supporting documents (from the Canadian Seed Growers' Association or Canadian Food Inspection Agency if required). Please note that a faxed application is enough to begin the application process, but the originals are needed before your licence can be issued.

NEW - Who needs a criminal record check?

The application for a licence or authorization under the IHR must include documents about the criminal record of the following persons:

  • The applicant for the license or authorization;
  • Each officer and director, in the case of a corporation or a cooperative that is seeking a license or authorization;
  • Each partner, in the case of a partnership that is seeking a license or authorization.

A document issued by a Canadian police force will have to be provided for each of these persons, setting out for the previous 10 years the person's criminal record in respect of any designated drug offence.

In addition, for officers, directors or partners who ordinarily reside in a country other than Canada, a document issued by a police force of that foreign country must be submitted, setting out their criminal record for the previous 10 years in respect of any offence that would constitute a designated drug offence if committed in Canada.

These documents must also be submitted when adding or replacing an officer, director or partner.

How long are licences and permits valid?

Licences are issued on a calendar year basis and expire on the December 31st immediately following the issuance of the licence or authorization, unless otherwise specified. Permits are valid for three months. Licence holders must reapply each year providing information that is current at the time of the application. The Office of Controlled Substances will accept applications as early as mid-November for licensing in the following year to ensure persons requiring a licence or authorization for carry-over material have an opportunity to obtain the necessary documents.

Where can I get more information about program requirements?

The document Industrial Hemp Regulations describes the amendments to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. It also describes in detail the application process, causes of licence revocation, record keeping procedures, security measures, and so on. Consult this document when you want specific details of the amendments to the Act. (To view these documents click on any of the underlined titles mentioned here.)

If you're interested in the background to the development of the Industrial Hemp Regulations, you may wish to read the Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement which describes regulations in other countries, benefits and costs to interested parties and alternative models which were considered before the regulations were put in place in 1998.

The Industrial Hemp Technical Manual will guide you through the sampling and testing methodology for the determination of delta 9 - tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in industrial hemp. This is useful to samplers, farmers, and those interested in THC and/or viability testing. If you are interested in how the THC determination is made you may wish to consult the Gas Chromatographic Determination of Tetrahydrocannabinol in Cannabis.

The form for Reporting the results of Delta 9 THC testing is found here and is mandatory for those cultivating industrial hemp.

What should I do if I find errors in the Health Canada documentation?

If you find errors in our documentation, please use the Identification of Errors form and return it to us by e-mail at hemp@hc-sc.gc.ca or by fax: 613-960-1740. You may also call us at 613-954-6524.

About Laws and Regulations

NEW - What can I do with a licence or an authorization under the Industrial Hemp Regulations?

A licence issued under the IHR specifies the activities that are permitted by that licence, subject to the requirements of the IHR and to specific exclusions (see "What activities are not permitted under the IHR?"). These activities could include:

  • Import or export of industrial hemp. Note that in addition to the licence, importers and exporters need a permit for each shipment of hemp that they import or export. Other customs documentation may be required;
  • Production of industrial hemp;
  • Sale or provision of industrial hemp.

A person who holds a licence is also permitted to engage in additional activities - possess, transport, send, deliver, and (if the licence permits sale or provision) offer to sell or to provide - with industrial hemp, to the extent necessary to conduct a licensed activity.

A person who does not hold a licence may possess, transport, send or deliver industrial hemp, or offer to do so, if they hold the appropriate authorization issued under the IHR.

NEW - What activities can I do with industrial hemp stalks?

Mature industrial hemp stalks, when the leaves, flowers, seeds and branches are removed, are excluded from the CDSA. The fibers derived from those stalks are also excluded from the CDSA. This means that such stalks and fiber can be imported, sold, possessed, or used to make products, such as rope or fabric, without a licence, permit, or other authorization.

NEW - What activities are not permitted under the IHR?

The IHR do not apply to certain activities with industrial hemp. These activities are controlled under the CDSA and are not authorized under the IHR. These activities are:

  • Certain activities with whole industrial hemp plants, including sprouts, or the leaves, flowers or bracts of those plants. These activities are: importation, exportation, sale or provision;
  • Certain activities with any derivative or product made from whole industrial hemp plants, including sprouts, or the leaves, flowers or bracts of those plants. The activities are: importation, exportation, sale, provision or production;
  • Certain activities with any derivative of seed, viable grain or non-viable Cannabis seed, or product made from that derivative, if the derivative or product contains more than 10 microgram/gram THC. The activities are: importation, exportation, sale or provision.

Other restrictions on permitted activities are specified in the IHR and in each licence.

NEW - What activities are permitted without the need for a licence or authorization?

There are activities with industrial hemp to which the CDSA and the IHR do not apply, meaning that they are permitted for anyone without the need for a licence or authorization.

Non-viable Cannabis seeds, bare mature stalks and the fiber derived from these stalks are excluded from the CDSA and from the IHR. This means that these seeds, stalks and fibers can be imported, sold, or used to make products, such as food or rope, without requiring any licence, permit or authorization.

In addition, when certain conditions are met, a person may import, export, sell (at wholesale or retail), provide, possess, transport, send and deliver derivatives of industrial hemp seed, viable grain or non-viable Cannabis seed, or products made from such derivatives, without the need for a licence or authorization under the IHR. The conditions to be met include that the derivative or product:

  • Must contain no more than 10 µg/g THC;
  • Must not have been made from whole industrial hemp plants, including sprouts, or the leaves, flowers, or bracts of those plants;
  • In the case of the wholesale sale of a derivative, the package containing the derivative must be labelled "Contains 10 µg/g THC or less - Contient au plus 10 µg/g de THC".

Note that producing (e.g., cultivating, harvesting) industrial hemp in accordance with the IHR always requires a licence.

NEW - What do we mean by "wholesale"?

Wholesale includes selling goods in large quantities so that they can be retailed by others (e.g., selling crates of hemp seed oil to retail stores).

NEW - What do we mean by "retail sale"?

Retail sale includes selling products in small quantities to the public for use or consumption (e.g., selling hemp seed oil to individual Canadians).

NEW - Do the Industrial Hemp Regulations impose restrictions on the advertising of industrial hemp?

Yes, they do. The restriction is that no person can advertise industrial hemp, its derivatives, or any product made from those derivatives to imply that it is psychoactive meaning that it could affect the mind of the behavior of the person consuming it.

What varieties of industrial hemp are acceptable for production in Canada?

Only seeds of approved industrial hemp varieties, which have a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) level lower than 0.3% in their leaves and flowering heads, can be planted. Please click here for a List of Approved Cultivars.

How do I get my varieties approved and placed on the List of Approved Cultivars?

In order to be included on the List of Approved Cultivars, a variety must fulfill two conditions. First, it must be recognized as being a true variety (distinct, uniform and stable) by a responsible authority, such as the OECD Seed Scheme, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's Variety Registration Program, or the Canadian Seed Growers Association. Application must be made directly to the appropriate agency for this purpose. Once the variety has been recognized as a true variety, the plant breeder may submit a request to the Office of Controlled Substances to have it included on the list. Evidence must be provided with the request that the variety is recognized by one of the bodies mentioned and that it will consistently produce plants with a THC content of 0.3% THC or less. This request must be submitted before the Interdepartmental Working Group meets in December of each year to evaluate varietal performance and recommend to the OCS the varieties to be included on or removed from the List of Approved Cultivars.

Can I only cultivate industrial hemp from pedigreed status seeds?

Yes. Since 2000, Section 14 (3) of the Industrial Hemp Regulations states: "On and after January 1, 2000, an approved cultivar referred to in subsection (1) must be of a pedigreed status, as defined in subsection 2(2) of the Seeds Regulations."

Pedigreed status, defined in subsection 2(2) of the Seeds Regulations, with respect to seed, means seed that is of foundation status, registered status, or certified status, or seed that is approved by the Canadian Seed Growers' Association (CSGA) as being breeder seed or select seed. Foundation, registered, and certified status are further defined for seed that is produced in Canada or elsewhere. Seed that is not produced in Canada must meet the standards for varietal purity established by an official certifying agency and be approved by the CSGA.

There are two official systems that are currently recognized to produce seed of pedigreed status:

  1. The Association of American Seed Control Officials (AASCO): This system is used in Canada and in the USA, and other countries are now interested in becoming members. Canada is represented by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and by the Canadian Seed Growers' Association-both are members of the Association. The Canadian Seed Growers' Association is recognized by the Seeds Act as being the entity responsible for establishing and enforcing standards for maintenance of genetic purity during seed multiplication.
  2. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Seed Scheme is used mainly in European countries, but there are also numerous other member countries. Canada is a member and is represented by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. The Seeds Act states that imported seed must be recognized by the Canadian Seed Growers Association as being of pedigreed status. However, the CSGA does recognize the status of seed originating from the OECD seed scheme. The classification of pedigreed status under the OECD scheme is different (Pre-Basic, Basic, Certified), but equivalent.

Therefore, if someone wants to import or use seed from a particular country that is not recognized by the OECD scheme, officials of that country would have to obtain OECD recognition for their seed certification program and become a member of the OECD Seed Scheme.

Why was hemp illegal to cultivate in Canada in the past?

Hemp production was prohibited in Canada in 1938 under the Opium and Narcotic Drug Act as part of a combined international battle against the abuse of THC and other controlled substances. Although the prohibition was relaxed briefly during World War II when traditional sources of fibres were unavailable, the prohibition was renewed after the war. Since 1961, Health Canada has allowed limited production in Canada for scientific research purposes.

About Industrial Hemp Resources

NEW - When is THC testing required under the IHR?

Persons licensed to cultivate industrial hemp are required to have their crops sampled and tested for the THC concentration, unless the variety being cultivated is an exempted cultivar listed on Health Canada's List of Approved Cultivars (LOAC).

The sampling and testing is to be done in accordance with the Industrial Hemp Technical Manual. The sampling and testing starts when the seed begins to mature (i.e., when the first seeds of 50% of the plants are resistant to compression).

Where can I find processors and labs?

To find processors, laboratories and suppliers of industrial hemp, please refer to the industry lists of licensed services.

Field sampling of industrial hemp crops is an authorized activity. Qualified individuals go into the fields to remove and prepare samples prior to sending them to laboratories licensed to perform THC testing of industrial hemp.

There is also a list of authorized laboratories licensed to perform viability testing. This testing is a requirement if you are rendering grain non-viable.

The lists mentioned above are updated frequently as new licensees qualify.

Where can I find suppliers of industrial hemp?

List of Approved Cultivars

Section 39(1) of the Industrial Hemp Regulations (IHR), allows a variety of industrial hemp to be designated as an approved cultivar, provided that the variety will produce a plant that will contain 0.3% THC or less in its leaves and flowering heads. Section 39(2) also permits the Minister to exempt an approved cultivar from THC testing. Section 8(1)(g)(i) of the IHR requires that a person who applies for a licence or authorization indicates the approved cultivar that will be sown. The cultivar indicated must be on the list of hemp varieties approved by Health Canada.

Each year, the Interdepartmental Working Group on Hemp Cultivars with participants from OCS (Licences and Permits Division, Regulatory Policy Division), the Canadian Food Inspection Agency-Seed Section, the Canadian Seed Growers' Association, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police would review THC test data and recommend the inclusion and exemption of hemp varieties on the List of Approved Cultivars (LOAC) for the current growing season

The LOAC is published on an annual basis. This list contains information on the varieties of industrial hemp that may be used for commercial cultivation in Canada, and the testing requirements for each variety.

Where can I find information on other departments that deal with industrial hemp?

The best place to start is by consulting The Industrial Hemp Licence Contact List. It will provide you with the addresses of our bureau and of the provincial drug inspectors. As well, the page Industry Links lists the websites of other departments, associations and organizations that are implicated in the support, commerce and control of industrial hemp at national and provincial levels.

Another important source of information is the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. If you are looking for information on how to become an approved conditioner, an authorized importer establishment, an authorized seed establishment, or an authorized facility for bulk storage, ask for Louise Duke in Ottawa at 613-225-2342. If you want more information on the Feeds Act and Regulations, ask for Lynne Underhill in Ottawa at 613-225-2342.

Who do I contact regarding industrial hemp in cosmetics?

For information on the use of industrial hemp in cosmetics and other personal care products, please refer to the following Health Canada website:

Who do I contact regarding industrial hemp in food products?

For information on the use of industrial hemp in food, please refer to the following Health Canada website:

Who should I contact for issues related to importing or exporting of industrial hemp?

Contact the Canadian Customs and Revenue Agency office nearest you. To obtain the phone number of the nearest office, visit the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency website.

How do I become an authorized sampler?

To become an authorized sampler for sampling commercial production of industrial hemp, you must either be recognized by the CSGA or the CFIA for the purposes of pedigreed seed crop inspection, or be a member of a professional agrologists association. If you fulfill one of these conditions, you may apply to the OCS for authorization. A special application form is available on our website for this purpose. For more information regarding professional agrologists, one association is the Canadian Consulting Agrologists Association (CCAA) at 403-686-8407.

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