The law legalizing the production and sale of edible cannabis, as well as cannabis topicals and extracts, came into effect October 17, 2019.
With the excitement and anticipation ramping up, the most common question being asked is, “How can I get my cannabis edibles on retail store shelves?”. Unfortunately, it is not as easy as baking some home-made products in your kitchen and selling them online.
The cannabis industry as a whole is still highly regulated and only allows for the production or sale of cannabis products (including edibles, topicals and extract) under specific regulations and rulings. The reason being that when you purchase an edible cannabis product from the legal market (through a licensed retailer) you can be sure the THC and CBD content in the product is correct. Current regulations allow for no more than 10 mg of THC in a package, to prevent overconsumption. Edibles that are available through the illegal market are unregulated, and may contain harmful substances, such microbial or chemical contaminants, and in some cases much higher concentrations of THC than advertised. Furthermore, Health Canada does not allow the sale of products that can appeal to youth and, therefore, has placed restrictions on certain flavours of cannabis that would appeal to children (ie. confectionary, dessert). All products sold through the legal market are also guaranteed to be in child-resistant and child-proof packaging. Ultimately, these strict measures are in place to protect public health and safety and ensure access to safe and quality-controlled products.
If you’re thinking of starting a cannabis edibles business, there are many steps to complete before you can be licensed and ready to go. The experts at CLE can help break down exactly what you’ll need to start your edibles business.
Obtaining a Processing License
Besides building requirements and having a non-residential site where you will manufacture your products, the next step involved in producing and selling cannabis edibles, is to obtain a federal Processing license from Health Canada.
A Processing licence is required to manufacture cannabis-based products such as edibles, topicals and extracts. Currently, Health Canada offers two variations of the Processing licence; Standard Processing and Micro-Processing.
- The Micro-Processing Licence is generally reserved for smaller manufacturers, as it only permits up to 600 kg of dried flower (or the equivalent) to be handled each year.
- The Standard Processing licence functions much like the Micro-Processing Licence, but there is no limit on the amount of cannabis product your business can handle each year. You can manufacture, sell, and distribute an unlimited amount of cannabis with this licence.
Both Processing licences allow for the sale and distribution of cannabis products to other licence holders or to provincial and territorial retailers.
When a Processing licence is issued by Health Canada, it will initially have conditions placed upon it which will limit the activities that may be conducted by the licence holder. Therefore, the next step is going to be to apply for an amendment of the licence to get the conditions removed so that your processing business will be authorized to sell cannabis products to provincially and territorially authorized retailers and/or holders of a licence for sale for medical purposes. An inspection by Health Canada may also be required before you receive your amended processing licence with conditions removed.
An important note to keep in mind is that each provincial or territorial government is responsible for regulating the possession, consumption and sale of all cannabis products in their respective province or territory. Since recreational cannabis was legalized in Canada back in 2018, we have seen the provinces’ approaches and attitudes toward their respective frameworks continue to evolve and change. This means that, while the above requirements will serve as baseline rules, the province or territory where your organization intends on selling may or may not decide to enact stricter requirements when it comes to the cannabis products they choose to sell.
Additional Requirements for Securing Processing Licensing
Besides the above, there are a few other requirements to keep in mind for your Cannabis Edibles business:
- The first thing to be aware of is the requirement for a separate building to manufacture edible cannabis products. If you already have a business that manufactures regular, non-cannabis food products (including beverages), then processing cannabis at the same site can only be done if production, packaging, labelling, and storage of cannabis products and production, packaging, and labelling of food products are conducted in separate buildings. This precaution is put in place to help minimize the risks of cross-contamination of Canadian food products with cannabis, as processes will be completely separated and isolated.
- The licence holder must retain the services of one individual to serve as a Quality Assurance Person (QAP) in the organization. Such a person would need to have the training, experience and technical knowledge related to the requirements of Parts 5 and 6 of the Cannabis Regulations. Your QAP must have previous work experience in a quality control or quality assurance position at a site where regulated products are manufactured.
- Under the Cannabis Regulations, anyone who holds a licence for processing (standard or micro) and conducts activities in relation to edible cannabis must prepare, retain, maintain and implement a written Preventive Control Plan for any activity they conduct with the cannabis, or anything that will be used as an ingredient in the production of the edible cannabis.
- A Preventive Control Plan is a written document that demonstrates how hazards to your cannabis product are identified, prevented, eliminated or reduced to an acceptable level. The content of your PCP depends on the activities you conduct at your site, and may include elements relating to packaging, labelling, grading, standards of identity, and food safety.
So there you have it! The items mentioned above are key to running a successful and compliant cannabis edibles business. Contact us today to discover how we can license and legalize your cannabis business to meet federal or provincial regulations.
How we can help you
At Cannabis License Experts, we will provide you with the guidance to plan your business, acquire funding, navigate the legal requirements, and acquire the appropriate licence(s) for your operations. As the Canadian cannabis industry develops, more and more licensed producers will be needed to meet the demands of consumers. Cannabis License Experts offers support from day one of starting your cannabis business, including strategic planning, floor plan preparation, site audits, SOPs and more! Our Edibles Compliance division can provide you with a solid plan to help get your edibles products on store shelves.