Canada's regime has been established as a result of court decisions to meet the needs of eligible individuals in Canada by enabling reasonable access to cannabis for medical purposes in a timely manner. The regime is neither intended to make Canada an exporter of cannabis, nor to enable importation as an alternative to domestic production.
The following sets out public health, safety and security considerations taken into account if the department receives a request from a licensed party for importation or exportation of marijuana under Part 1 of the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR) or the Narcotic Control Regulations (NCR).
Canadian courts have ruled that certain individuals in Canada must have reasonable access to a legal source of cannabis for medical purposes. To give effect to the court rulings, Health Canada implemented a regulatory regime that authorizes eligible individuals in Canada to possess and have access to a legal source of cannabis for medical purposes. The ACMPR provides access to a secure source of cannabis for medical purposes through licensed producers who are permitted to cultivate and sell to eligible individuals in Canada and others, as authorized by regulations, and allows for a limited amount of personal and designated production.
Canada is a signatory to the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961 as amended by the 1972 Protocol, the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, 1971, and the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, 1988. Health Canada has an obligation to maintain control over the movement of cannabis in a manner consistent with these international drug control conventions which strictly limit trade in cannabis to medical and scientific purposes between countries with the International Narcotics Control Board's confirmed estimatesFootnote 1.
Cannabis is a narcotic and has the potential for serious public health, safety and security risks. Except for the limited products with a Drug Identification Number (DIN), cannabis's efficacy and safety has not been established and it has not received approval under the Food and Drugs Act (FDA). Its abuse has broad societal and economic consequences and can result in harm to health and to society when diverted or misused.
Import and export can undermine the regime's public health and safety objectives by exacerbating risks related to higher inventory levels, large shipments over long distances and the inability to apply Canada's strict security requirements beyond Canada's borders. Potential risks are further elevated due to the fact that imported product cannot be subject to the same level of quality-focused on-site inspections.
This bulletin clarifies that the Department does not support facilitating a regime premised on servicing global demand given the associated public health, safety and security risks. For the above reasons, importation and exportation would be permitted under very limited circumstances, such as, importing starting materials for a new Licensed Producer or exporting a unique marijuana strain for scientific investigation in a foreign laboratory.
The import and export provisions operate in the context of Canada's international drug treaty obligations. As such, they are not a vehicle for supplying cannabis to foreign markets where recreational use is legal.
Any licensed party who chooses to submit an import or export permit application should expect these to be assessed in view of this bulletin, taking into account relevant considerations including:
This bulletin does not apply to a drug containing cannabis (e.g. Sativex and Cesamet) with a DIN approved in accordance with the FDA and its regulations or cannabis regulated under the Industrial Hemp Regulations.
The estimates represent a given country's annual medical and scientific requirements for a particular narcotic drug listed in the Single Convention. These estimates are confirmed by the International Narcotics Control Board and represent the maximum annual quantity of a particular narcotic drug that a country may acquire under the Single Convention through import and/or manufacture.