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What Those in Cannabis Retail Compliance Should Know About Canada’s Import Laws

annabis Retail Compliance
Since cannabis was first legalized in Canada in 2018, the nation has rapidly progressed within the industry. The country has become renowned and admired internationally for having one of the largest and most well-developed cannabis markets in the world. Yet the rules and regulations surrounding the importation and exportation of cannabis products are often confusing to both individual consumers and commercial retailers.

The Cannabis Act was established by the Canadian government in 2018, for the purpose of controlling the country’s distribution, production, and sales of cannabis from a regulatory and legal standpoint. To understand more about these regulations overseen by Health Canada, let’s take a closer look.

Who’s Allowed to Import or Export Cannabis Products in This Country?

Under Canadian cannabis regulations, only those holding a valid licence are allowed to import or export cannabis products. Any such shipments must be for medical or scientific purposes only, with distribution and sales of these products for any other purpose (such as recreational use) strictly forbidden. This completely rules out international shipments of high-THC cannabis intended for non-medical purposes.

cannabis retail compliance

Imports and exports of cannabis must be intended for medical or scientific purposes only

A process must be followed for all imports and exports, starting with details of a shipment being issued to Health Canada. A long wait often follows before a permit is finally issued, which must then be used exclusively at the permit’s port of entry, and prior to expiration.

How Health Canada Assesses Applications

The rules on shipping cannabis either in or out of the country follow Canada’s international drug conventions, requiring a permit on each individual order. Permits must also take these conventions into consideration, and abide by their parameters. If you’re interested in cannabis retail compliance, you should know that Health Canada’s general policy limits cannabis imports or exports to the following situations:

  • A new licence holder wishing to import starting materials such as seeds or plants
  • Exporting or importing small quantities for scientific research or testing
  • Exporting cannabis products to countries where it is legally allowable for medical purposes

The importation or exportation of bulk quantities of cannabis remains illegal in Canada.

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Health Canada reviews each shipment application to ensure a list of specified conditions are met

Elements Health Canada Must Consider Before Issuing a Permit

Those interested in taking cannabis industry courses should know that when a licence holder applies to import or export a cannabis product, Health Canada must take a few things into careful consideration before issuing a permit. In addition to ensuring the product meets the Cannabis Act provisions and will be used only for medical or scientific purposes, the governing body must also consider:

  • Legal obligations under international treaties for Canada to abide by
  • Whether the country acting as the final destination has issued a permit for the shipment’s importation
  • Whether an import poses risks to public health, in view of a possible absence of the strict production standards and inspection processes of this country
  • Whether any risks are posed to the public’s safety and security 
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Imports must be assessed for potential risks they may pose to public health

Additional Importing Details Cannabis Retail Compliance Experts Should Know About

While the Cannabis Act clearly allows the importation of cannabis products under limited conditions, Canada only very rarely brings in such products from other countries in practice. Some of the latest research data shows the country importing almost no cannabis products at all between October 2018 and March 2019, with industry experts doubting any commercial cannabis imports to have occurred between then and now.

Licensed Canadian producers have spoken of trying to obtain permits to import products from external medical cannabis producers to sell to clients, but claim they were blocked by the government without clear guidance on reasons behind the declined applications. Critics of Canadian cannabis import laws feel these application refusals are likely based on protectionism of the country’s own thriving cannabis production market. 

As the industry matures, the regulations governing the importation of cannabis may change. Until then, Canada continues to enjoy its position as a leader in cannabis cultivation and production.

Interested in taking cannabis retail courses to pursue an exciting career in this thriving industry?

Contact the Academy of Applied Pharmaceutical Sciences for more information on its certificate program!

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