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If you're thinking about getting into BC's cannabis industry for commercial purposes, it's important to know that having a cannabis license is a legal requirement.
The government created this outline on how cultivators and processors in BC can get their licenses, but it's pretty dense reading. We thought we'd break it all down for you in this blog, so you can get a general idea of what's required. (If you’re after a hemp license, check out this page for more information on industrial hemp licensing).
Getting licensed means your products can enter the legal retail market not only in BC, but across the country. It’s a critical step to laying the foundation of your cannabis business.
If you're already a holder of a cannabis license but find yourself struggling with compliance issues, don't worry! We're here to help. Get in contact with us today and let us support you in maintaining your license with ease.
Types of Cannabis Licenses
For growing cannabis, you'll need a cultivation license or a nursery license. If you're thinking small-scale (under 200 square meters) go for a micro-cultivation license.
If you're processing and packaging cannabis products, you'll need a processing license. If you're dealing with less than 600 kg of dried cannabis annually, then a micro-processing license is what you're after.
Selling your products to authorized medical patients? You can apply for a medical sales license too. Both standard and micro-license holders are eligible for it.
If you are an Indigenous-affiliated applicant, there is a dedicated Indigenous Navigator and Licensing Service to support you throughout your federal application process.
The following is a summary of what the Government of BC has outlined as your first 8 steps of obtaining a cannabis license.
1. Initial Planning
Talk to your local government or Indigenous nation early on about land use requirements. Specific zoning bylaws exist for cannabis production. Be sure the land you have in mind is appropriate. Most local governments have resources for land-use planning available online.
2. Business Start-Up and Development
Cannabis is a heavily regulated industry. Inevitably, there will be ups and downs. Having a solid business plan will help a lot when change happens. Small Business BC and the Business Development Bank of Canada offer online business planning and development tools you may want to look into. Community Futures offers free entrepreneurial support for rural communities, too. You will need to register your business with BC Registries, and make sure you have the correct municipal business licenses (if they apply).
3. Land and Water Use Approvals
When choosing a cannabis production site, make sure the land you have in mind is appropriate for cannabis production. To find out if the land is a part of the ALR (Agricultural Land Reserve) click here for a map. Secure a project site with access to utilities like water, gas, and power. Get any necessary permits for building/development. You’ll need your water license, and an environmental site assessment is also recommended.
4. Waste Discharge Authorizations
Identify the wastes (solids, liquids, and air emissions) your operation will generate. Then, determine how these wastes will be managed. This is a helpful guide on the best waste control technologies specifically for the cannabis industry. Depending on the wastes discharged and what operations you plan to carry out, you may need a permit from the BC Environmental Management Act.
5. Construction and Retrofitting
This step is by far the most expensive step! Research and choose qualified contractors in your area. Construct the facility to Good Production Practices (GPP) and security requirements outlined by Health Canada. In order to apply for a license, applicants are required to have a fully built facility that meets all the requirements of Health Canada at the time of their application.
6. Apply to Health Canada
Now the paperwork begins in earnest! Ensure you understand all Health Canada requirements before you apply. You can use the Getting Started Guide for the Cannabis Tracking and Licensing Systems (CTLS) as a way to familiarise yourself with the application process.
Create an account in the CTLS, which is where you will submit your application. You’ll also need to submit your security clearance applications. The CTLS requires that people who need a security clearance submit their application form before the cannabis license application is submitted to the CTLS.
Notify your local law authorities of your intent to apply for a cannabis license, including the local government or Indigenous nation where the facility is located. Develop all the documentation needed to give Health Canada confidence that you can meet all the regulatory requirements. Submit all the requirements to Health Canada through the CTLS portal.
It’s worth noting that if you sign up with CertiCraft, we give you a 100-page document that takes care of everything you need related to Part 11 of the Cannabis Regulations (record keeping & documentation) for your application. We also host regular webinars to help you make sense of the Cannabis Regulations (check our social media channels for the next one!)
Don’t forget to pay the application fees!
7. Apply to the Canada Revenue Agency
The paperwork is not quite over yet! Cultivators, processors, and packagers also need to apply to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for a cannabis license. Be sure to apply for your CRA license at the same time as your Health Canada one. Even though your CRA license is conditional on receiving your Health Canada one first, you want to make sure it’s ready to go by the time your Health Canada license is ready. If you are a processor intending to package your products for recreational retail sale, you will need to register for the cannabis excise duty program.
8. Insurance, tax, and other regulations
Register for WorkSafe BC insurance if you intend to hire workers. It’s also a good idea to get a few other types of insurance, depending on your focus as a business. General Liability Insurance is always great. Product Recall insurance and Product Contamination Insurance can also be very useful. Register to collect GST and PST once you’ve obtained your Health Canada and CRA licenses.
What Comes Next?
Well, everything we just outlined is what you need to get your cannabis license. Your journey is only just beginning! There is A LOT that you have to do in order to stay compliant once you get your license. From monthly B-300 reports for Health Canada to time-consuming CTS reports for the CRA, compliance requirements can stack up fast. At CertiCraft, we manage all of those compliance headaches for you. Our solution is the only cannabis seed-to-sale that has been fully focused on compliance from day one. It will save you literally dozens (for micro) to hundreds (for standard) of hours of busywork every single month. All the paperwork you need for the government? Our system creates it for you with just one click.
Want to learn more? Click here to get in touch!
This article was written in tandem with Jessica B.