The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) prohibits activities related to controlled substances and precursor chemicals. 

Subsection 56(1) of the CDSA allows the Minister of Health to exempt any person or class of persons or any controlled substance or precursor or class thereof from the application of all or any provisions of the Act or the regulations if, in the opinion of the Minister, the exemption is necessary for a medical or scientific purpose or is otherwise in the public interest. 

Researchers (physicians, veterinarians and other researchers affiliated to universities and private industry) requiring a controlled substance for research purposes which include in vitro utilization, administration to animals and/or human clinical trials, must receive an exemption under subsection 56(1) of the CDSA. The exemption allows the individual to purchase (if applicable), possess and use a specified quantity of the controlled substance for their research.  Research exemptions are not issued for commercial purposes.

Health Canada is supportive of the advancement of scientific research designed to gather knowledge and translate that knowledge into improved health for Canadians.  It is Health Canada’s policy that to issue an exemption for scientific purposes, the applicant must ensure that the controlled substance is an integral part of the protocol and that the use and storage of the controlled substance will not contribute to the diversion or abuse of the substance.

Applicants who wish to request an exemption under subsection 56(1) of the CDSA for in vitro or animal studies, should consult “ Application Form For An Exemption To Use A Controlled Substance For Scientific Purposes”, or for human clinical trials, applicants should consult “Application Form For An Exemption To Use A Controlled Substance For Clinical Studies”.

For research involving cannabis including industrial hemp, phytocannabinoids produced by, or found in a cannabis plant and substances identical to such phytocannabinoids, test kits containing cannabis, and drugs containing cannabis, please contact the Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Branch at cannabis@canada.ca.

To operate a supervised consumption site (SCS) for medical purposes in Canada, an exemption under section 56.1 of the Act is necessary. Health Canada may grant exemptions for SCS after satisfactory completion of an application. More information can be found at the Supervised consumption sites page.

For questions or additional information regarding exemptions, please contact the Exemptions Section at hc.exemption.sc@canada.ca :

Researchers seeking health statistics related to controlled substances may find information through Statistics Canada.

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