Want to become a cannabis retailer? On your journey to getting a license, one of the most significant steps is getting a federal cannabis security clearance.
One of the first steps you’ll have to undertake before getting into the cannabis business is to pass one or more rounds of security clearances. The Government of Canada is the primary security clearance — and the most expensive.
However, provincial governments can also require you to complete a provincial security clearance (typically a police background check) prior to issuing a license.
What Cannabis Security Clearances Do You Need to Sell Recreational Cannabis in Canada?
To sell weed legally in Canada, you first have to jump through several bureaucratic hoops known as the Cannabis Security Clearance process.
Conducted by the federal government, this process “assesses if an applicant could pose an unacceptable risk to public health or public safety. This includes the risk of cannabis being diverted to an illicit market or activity.”
And it’s not just you, the owner, that needs to complete the security check. According to the Cannabis Regulations, other individuals may also be required to apply.
Depending on the business model, you’ll likely need to submit applications for anyone who directs control of the corporation — think significant investors, officers, directors, and the like.
Do the Provincial Government Require Security Clearances to Sell Cannabis?
The short answer is yes. In your provincial jurisdiction, you’ll likely also need to get a secondary clearance done, but the costs and process vary quite a bit from one place to the next.
For example, suppose you want to get a Cannabis Retail License in BC. In that case, you’ll have to undergo “a fit and proper assessment,” which rolls both security and financial assessments into one.
The BC government states, “This is a public safety measure to ensure licensees are eligible to hold a license, while keeping organized crime and illicit cannabis out of the cannabis industry.”
You’ll have to submit a background check with your license application in Ontario and Alberta. As the Alcohol and Gaming Commission explains, “The AGCO may look at the character, financial history and competence of persons applying for a license or authorization.”
Check with your provincial regulator to determine what security clearances you’ll need as a part of the recreational licensing process.
How Much Does a Cannabis Security Clearance Cost in Canada?
On top of all the costs associated with opening a dispensary, the Canadian government charges a flat rate of $1,654 per security clearance, which covers the cost of submission, processing, and issuing (or refusing). Keep in mind this cost is per clearance, so depending on the structure of your business, you may be responsible for more than one charge.
There may be additional charges at the provincial level, but these are typically much lower than the federal fee. For example, BC has dropped the fee altogether, while Alberta requests a background check that costs around $25 depending on where you purchase it (municipal police or the RCMP).
How Long Does a Cannabis Security Clearance Take?
The federal government suggests most security clearances take a few months to process — but depending on the application and the details contained within, some rare cases can take well over a year.
To avoid delays in your processing time, the government recommends paying close attention to your application package prior to sending it out. Ensure you have done the following:
- Included a valid government-issued ID
- Submitted accurate and truthful information
- Written intact and legible documentation
- Responded quickly to any requests for more information
What Does the Security Check Entail?
The federal cannabis security clearance is a comprehensive look at your background, including:
- Name, date of birth, and citizenship
- Identifying details (height, weight, eye colour)
- Past and current convictions
- Residential addresses from the previous five years
- Employment history from the past five years
- Marital status
- Time spent outside country of residence
- Foreign police certificate
Before applying, take the time to tackle the specifics of each of these categories to ensure there are no omissions, no information gaps, and no inaccuracies, all of which can lead to delays or refusals.
During the review process, if the government feels there is some confusion or missing information, they can issue a Request for More Information (RMI). Typically these are issued when they need more details to determine if “an applicant poses an unacceptable risk to public health or public safety.”
Essentially, if the government believes you may be a risk for black market activity, they will seek to clarify these concerns.
Cannabis Security Clearances: Arduous but Necessary
Many newbie cannabis retailers head into the security clearance process assuming it’s a bit of a bureaucratic quagmire. And while it does take several months to process, the step-by-step application process is straightforward.
We recommend taking the time to fill in the information gaps in your security submission(s) and reviewing them several times for inaccuracies and legibility. Working with a cannabis consultant who has been through this process several times over is also a valuable investment.
Ready to Take the Next Step?
TechPOS is an omnichannel platform for cannabis retailers spanning integrated POS systems, smart digital signage, and e-Commerce solutions.
Once you’ve passed your cannabis security clearance and are in the start-up phase of development, we are here to help.
Check out the extraordinary things our customers are getting up to.