Health Canada extending COVID measures for cannabis licence holders until September 2021

| David Brown

Health Canada announced today they will be extending several Covid-related measures until September 30 of this year. The regulator has extended these timelines several times since early 2020.

Following up on changes made last year in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and responding to industry feedback, Health Canada says they will extend allowances for:

  • Licence amendments and renewals (prioritizing requests that support licence holder operations during the pandemic);
  • Import/export permits (accepting alternate ports of entry/exit provided that all other requirements of the permit are respected);
  • Accepting verbal attestations from patients during their registration application rather than provide a signature if they are not able to do so;
  • Witnessing the destruction of cannabis virtually (e.g., using a camera, provided that a copy of the video is retained and is noted in the destruction records);
  • Allowing for the security-clearance holder, or the alternate, to accompany the cannabis until it enters and returns from an off-site facility for antimicrobial treatment or destruction, to respect physical distancing rules of the facility operating under a contract with the licence holder. This is provided that the off-site facility is permitted to possess and obtain cannabis;
  • Packaging and labelling (accepting a packaging date that is plus/minus 4 days of the printed packaging date on the label, provided records are kept in the event of recalls); and,
  • Conducting activities that do not require physical possession of cannabis off-site, provided that all requirements of the Cannabis Act and the Cannabis Regulations apply, and records must be kept and made available to Health Canada upon request.  These include:
Quality assurance·  Investigating complaints received in respect of the quality of the cannabis, provided that a complete investigation can be conducted off-site.
·  Batch record approval by the quality assurance person from a remote location, provided the quality of the cannabis can be adequately assessed without physical possession of cannabis, before it is made available.
Facilitating the sale of cannabis·  Answering phone calls
·  Registering medical patients
·  Helping individuals to navigate a website
·  Providing product information
·  Taking orders
Fulfilling recordkeeping and reporting requirements·  Entering data and information to comply with monthly reporting requirements for the cannabis tracking system

Virtual and On-site Inspections

The regulator says that inspections will continue to be delivered virtually, although some on-site visits will occur where needed. Licence holders requesting a sales amendment will still be requested to participate in a mandatory Compliance Promotion session with Health Canada inspectors.

Security Clearance Applications

The cannabis licensing program is also continuing to prioritize those licence amendment and security clearance applications that licence holders have identified as necessary to supporting their operations during the pandemic. In some cases, Health Canada says they may also allow licence holders to submit more security clearance applications than would normally be needed to fill key positions, and we will work to expedite those applications in partnership with the RCMP. This measure will also be in effect until September 30, 2021.

Regulations Amending the Cannabis Regulations (New Classes of Cannabis)

Following up on a memo from August 28, 2020, Health Canada will also be extending transitional provisions until September 30, 2021 for sections 73 and 75 to 80 of the Regulations Amending the Cannabis Regulations (New Classes of Cannabis) concerning requirements for packaging and labelling, microbial and chemical contaminants limits, and the removal of “cannabis oil” as a class of cannabis.

2020 Annual Promotions Reports – due on March 31, 2021

The annual reports for all promotions expenses that occurred between January 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020, are still due on March 31, 2021.