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How To Become A Licensed Marijuana Producer

With the legalization of recreational use of marijuana having been passed in Canada, it is not surprising that the upcoming changes are building an interest in producing marijuana in Canada.

If you are interested in producing marijuana, you will need to apply to become a licensed producer.  As you can imagine, the application process is a long one. Since changes in government and updates to legislation, the process has undergone some modifications.

Where do you start? How do you begin the application process? We cover what you need to know about the application process to become a licensed marijuana producer.

Application Process   

To apply to be a licensed producer, you must submit an application through the Cannabis Tracking and Licensing System (CTLS). This is an online application and case management system set up by Health Canada. In addition to letting you apply for a license, the site provides sellers and distributors a way in which monthly report requirements can be submitted.

Before you apply, though, you should first become familiar with the current legislation on Federal, provincial, territorial and municipal laws regarding cannabis. You must be an adult who resides in Canada to apply, or you can be applying as a corporation with a head office or operating branch in Canada.

Below is a guideline on each major step of the the application process to become a licensed marijuana producer.

Application Stage

  • Identify the licence class and subclass you want to apply for There are different classes and subclasses of licenses you can apply for:
    • Cannabis License
    • Subclasses:
      • Cultivation  (Standard Cultivation, Micro-Cultivation, Nursery)
      • Manufacturer (Standard Processing, Micro-Processing)
      • Sale for Medical Purposes
    • Analytical Testing License
    • Research License

Each one enables you to carry out specific activities authorized under the Cannabis Regulations. You can apply for a combination of licenses classes that authorize the activities you wish to carry out.

Depending on the class of license(s) you want to apply for, there will be different requirements. Refer to the the Cannabis Regulations for details on the class and combination of licenses you can apply for.  

  • Create a CTLS Account -To start the application process, you will need an account on the Cannabis Tracking and Licensing System. You can create an account for either an individual or an organization (a corporate profile must be filled out for organizations). 

You will also need user accounts for all required individuals and personnel team members that are associated with your application. They must all have an account ID in the CTLS and must apply for the necessary security clearances (if applicable) before your application can be submitted to Health Canada. The security clearances required will be dependent upon the type of license class and subclass you are applying for. 

  • Create an Application and Gather all Information Once all necessary accounts are created, you can start your application. Ensure that you have all the information needed.

As part of the application process and assessment further down the line, you will need to have a few key items and details in place, such as:

    • Site Personnel – You will need to have a list of key individuals and their personal information prepared. Part of your application will be to submit information on your proposed team members along with their security clearances and statuses.  
    • Proposed Site DetailsYou will need detailed site and floor plans and ensure that your site complies with all zoning by-laws, fire and electrical safety, and environmental legislation. You also need to notify your local government, police and fire department about your proposed production site before you file your application.
    • Good Production Practices  – You can expect to provide a detailed report of descriptions outlining your operational methods, security systems, and any activities that will be taking place in your facility and so on.

You can find our full checklist of what you need linked below.

  • Submit application Once your application is filled out in full, you can submit your application. This requires electronically agreeing to and confirming the Declarations and Attestations.  

You can also save your application during the process and fill it out at your leisure if you cannot fill it out in one sitting. If filling out your application through the system isn’t possible, you will need to contact Health Canada for guidance on alternative submission methods.  

Note that you cannot make any changes to the application from the CTLS. If you need to make a change, you must contact with the subject line containing your application file number, your name and a specific title in the subject field of your email.  

Initial Screening Stage

There are multiple steps in review each application. When you submit your application, the first stage is the initial screening stage where your application will be checked for completeness, that you have included all documents. Health Canada will assess your legibility and if your application should be further assessed.

If your application contains all the completed information, your application will be given a reference number. Note that applications that are missing information can be automatically  rejected.

Review And Security Clearance Stage

Next, your application will go through a detailed review stage to verify that all requirements are met. At this stage, the security clearance applications for key personnel will already be in progress with Health Canada working with the RCMP on background checks for criminal records.

If the security clearance of an individual on your team has been refused or cancelled, he or she cannot submit a new application for another security clearance until the issue has been fixed or changed, or until five years have passed after the refusal.

Pre-licensing and Approval Process

Once the detailed review is complete, you will get a confirmation of readiness email that will ask you to verify that there is a facility at the site address you provided. For this, you must provide a site evidence package. This includes documentation such as videos, building plans, photos and descriptions that clearly show the facility in detail.

An on-site pre-licence inspection will then be set up and conducted by Health Canada inspectors, if necessary. If one is not required, they will base a license issuance on how thorough the information in your site evidence package was.

Issuance of License to Produce

Once all information has been reviewed and security clearances have been granted, an initial licence for authorized activities will be issued. You will be mailed a hard copy of the licence and an issuance letter with any conditions that comes with the license.

All security-cleared key personnel will be sent letters on the status of their security clearances for the proposed site under your application. Health Canada will then schedule a teleconference to discuss your licence and any conditions applied to it

You must ensure that the quality of cannabis products you produce meets all standards. To this end, when you first get your licence, your activities may be limited (especially if you have been licensed to sell for medical purposes). This will be to verify that the cannabis products you intend to sell meet all requirements according to the Cannabis Regulations.

The Process: What To Expect

The entire application process is tedious and may take a long time to complete until it is approved. The timeline for security screening of key personnel can vary, as well, depending on the complexity of the applicant’s file.

During the review process, you can expect to communicate with Health Canada frequently if clarifications on the application or any additional information is needed. As a tip, have your application reference number on hand during those times.

You can easily keep track of the progress of your application within your CTLS account after it has been submitted. To fully understand the CTLS, consult Health Canada’s CTLS Getting Started Guide.

If your application has been refused, you can file a new application. However, the information and data that was submitted with your application will not be returned.

To ensure you have everything prepared and required to apply for your license to produce, download the OMQ Law Licensed Producer checklist to stay on track with your progress in the application process. If you have questions on marijuana laws in Canada, contact one of our lawyers.


The information in this document does not constitute legal advice. It is for reference and informational purposes only. OMQ Law has made every attempt to ensure the accuracy of the information provided and has listed resources from the Government of Canada and Health Canada where the above information and details can be found. It is the sole responsibility of the user to ensure any application made to the Government of Canada or Health Canada fulfills all requirements are met and confirmed with the proper government authorities and departments. The content and process described above is subject to change without notice.

Last Updated: November 9, 2018