Editor’s Note: The following response was provided by Andre Gagnon, media relations advisor for Health Canada.
The Cannabis Act and its Regulations provide, among other things, the framework for legal access to cannabis and control and regulate its production, distribution and sale.
The oversight of the cannabis supply chain is a shared responsibility across federal and provincial and territorial governments, municipalities, industry and other stakeholders. One of Health Canada’s responsibilities is to provide the licensing and oversight framework for legal production of cannabis.
Under this framework, a person is required to obtain a licence issued by Health Canada in order to conduct various activities with cannabis. Applicants and licence holders are responsible for compliance with the Cannabis Act and its Regulations as well as compliance with other applicable federal, provincial and territorial legislation and municipal by-laws.
Under no circumstances is it permitted for a legal person – whether that be an organization (such as a company, club, or association) – or an individual to sell cannabis in any form, including cannabis plants or cannabis plant seeds, unless they have the appropriate licence from Health Canada or from the relevant provincial or territorial authority.
Selling would include any circumstance where some form of consideration is given, directly or indirectly, in exchange for cannabis and could include subscription services or bartering, in addition to money transactions.
Similarly, under no circumstances is it permitted for an organization to distribute cannabis in any form, including cannabis plants or cannabis plant seeds, unless they have the appropriate licence from Health Canada or from the relevant provincial or territorial authority. This prohibits unlicensed companies, associations, cooperatives or clubs from giving cannabis to any person.
Under the provisions of the Cannabis Act, the limited sharing of cannabis for personal use between individual adults is not prohibited.
With respect to cannabis plants specifically, it is not prohibited for an adult individual to distribute up to four cannabis plants to another adult, provided that the plants are not flowering, or have buds on them (in other words, the plants are in a “vegetative state” and have not reached the flowering stage).
It is also not prohibited to distribute up to 30 cannabis plant seeds, provided that the seeds were lawfully obtained.
The intent of these provisions is to not criminalize the small-scale sharing of cannabis plants and seeds between adults, such as family members, friends, or neighbors.
In doing so, these measures help provide legal access to cannabis, reducing the role that the illegal market and criminals and organized crime play in the cannabis marketplace.
With respect to the sharing of cannabis plants and cannabis plant seeds by individuals who are registered with Health Canada to produce cannabis for their own medical purposes, it is important to note that these provisions are intended to provide individuals with the ability to produce a quantity of cannabis that they require for their own medical purposes, as recommended by their health care practitioner.
The maximum number of plants an individual is authorized to grow under this system reflects the recommendation of their healthcare practitioner and is stated in their registration.
Any person who violates the terms of their authorization could face compliance action, such as the revocation of their registration.
Under this system, it would not be expected that registered individuals would routinely have excess cannabis that they would be able to share on a large-scale or continual basis. In fact, the large-scale or continual sharing of cannabis by an individual registered to produce cannabis for their own medical purposes could cause Health Canada to investigate the circumstances of the registration and evaluate whether the amount the individual is authorized to produce should be reviewed.
Gagnon, Andre. “RE: Health Canada response on sharing seeds.” Message to Travis Cesarone. 21 December 2018. E-mail.