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Lawyer’s Guide to Health Canada Cannabis Security Clearances

Helping Canadian Businesses Get Licences, Stay Onside And Resolve Their Legal Challenges.


On October 17, 2018, Canada’s Cannabis Act became law. This new legislation made it legal for the production, sale, and distribution of marijuana for recreational and medical use. As a result, Health Canada has started requiring certain individuals in the industry to secure security clearance.

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Table of Contents

  1. Understanding Health Canada’s Cannabis Security Clearances
  2. Roles Requiring a Security Clearance
  3. The Application Process
  4. The Importance of Full and Complete Disclosure
  5. The Role of a Lawyer in the Security Clearance Process
  6. Grounds for Refusal or Revocation
  7. Challenging a Security Clearance Decision
  8. Renewals and Updates
  9. Key Takeaways for Industry

Understanding Health Canada’s Cannabis Security Clearances

Health Canada has established a security clearance process to ensure that the operations of the marijuana industry are conducted in a safe and secure manner. This process is designed to prevent organized crime from entering the industry.

Applicants for security clearance undergo a background check that includes a review of their criminal record and other relevant data. The process is carried out by the RCMP and other law enforcers.

Roles Requiring a Security Clearance

Although not all employees in the marijuana industry are required to have security clearance, certain individuals in key positions in the organization have to undergo the process.

a) Directors and officers of a corporation

b) Individuals who have direct control over a corporation (e.g., significant shareholders)

c) The Responsible Person (RP)

d) The Head of Security (HOS)

e) The Master Grower (MG)

f) The Quality Assurance Person (QAP)

The specific roles and responsibilities that require security clearance are outlined in the Cannabis Regulations.

The Application Process

Health Canada accepts applications for a cannabis license. The process for security clearance begins once the applicant has submitted the necessary documents.


You must provide personal biographical information including surname, preferred official language, date of birth, birthplace, sex, eye colour, hair colour, weight and height. As well you must submit a copy of a valid government-issued ID.

Most importantly, you must submit a list of all past and current convictions under the Cannabis ActControlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) and Criminal Code. You must include convictions in Canada and in other places regardless of how long ago. You must also submit a history of your residential addresses for the past 5 years and complete employment, education and unemployment history.

Cannabis license applicants must also provide their fingerprints, which are utilized to check their criminal record. These can be done at an accredited agency or through a local police station.

The Importance of Full and Complete Disclosure

The security clearance process is transparent, and applicants must be forthcoming with all of the necessary information. Health Canada will not hesitate to revoke or deny a clearance if the applicant refuses to provide truthful information.

The Role of a Lawyer in the Security Clearance Process

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Although it is not mandatory, it is still beneficial to have a lawyer help with the security clearance application process. He or she can provide advice on the various requirements for each role and ensure that the application is completed properly.

a) Advising on the specific security clearance requirements for the client’s role in the cannabis industry
b) Reviewing the application form for completeness and accuracy
c) Ensuring that all necessary supporting documentation is provided
d) Advising on disclosure obligations and the importance of transparency
e) Assisting with the fingerprinting process
f) Providing guidance on how to address any potential issues identified during the background check

Grounds for Refusal or Revocation

Health Canada can refuse to grant or revoke a security clearance depending on various factors.

a) Providing false or misleading information on the application form

b) Having a criminal record or outstanding charges related to drug offences or other crimes that raise concerns about the applicant’s integrity or trustworthiness

c) Having associations with organized crime or other individuals who pose a risk to the integrity of the cannabis industry

d) Financial issues, such as personal or corporate bankruptcy, which may suggest a risk of diversion to the illegal market

e) Any other information that, in Health Canada’s opinion, suggests that the applicant poses a risk to public safety or the integrity of the cannabis industry

Challenging a Security Clearance Decision

If Health Canada refuses to provide a security clearance or revokes an already issued one, the applicant has an opportunity to challenge the decision.

a) Reviewing the reasons for refusal or revocation and identifying any errors or inconsistencies

b) Gathering and presenting additional evidence to address Health Canada’s concerns

c) Representing the applicant in any hearings or appeals, if applicable

d) Advising on the best course of action to mitigate the impact of a negative decision on the applicant’s cannabis business

Renewals and Updates

After five years, security clearances are usually renewed. It’s important for individuals to ensure that they have updated their information and submitted a renewal application in order to avoid any issues related to their operations.

If there are any changes or additions to the information that the applicant provided in their application, they must immediately notify Health Canada. Failure to do so could lead to the revocation of their clearance.

Key Takeaways for Industry

As someone who is working with clients in the marijuana industry, it’s important that you understand the significance of Health Canada’s security clearance process. It plays a vital role in maintaining the industry’s integrity.

a) Familiarize yourself with the specific security clearance requirements for each role in the cannabis industry

b) Know the importance of full and complete disclosure during the application process

c) Prepare accurate and thorough security clearance applications

d) Deal with any challenges that may arise during the security clearance process, including addressing issues identified during the background check

e) Monitor the expiry dates of your security clearances and renew when needed


Having a good understanding of the security clearance process can help keep your business operating smoothly and in compliance with the regulations of Health Canada.

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