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Health canada cannabis seeds

What Cultivators Need to Know about Starting Materials

Growing cannabis requires starting materials. Cannabis starting materials can be in the form of seeds, clones or mother plants. While there are many sources of starting material, a holder of a Health Canada cultivation license must obtain cannabis starting materials from a legal source and ensure proper documentation is followed.

Prior to the Cannabis Regulations, under the previous cannabis regulatory frameworks, there were only two legal sources for cannabis starting materials. These are intra-industry sales and foreign legal sources. The Cannabis Regulations allow for two additional sources of genetics, depending on whether you are a holder of a newly issued cultivation license or research and development.

Plants and seeds for starting materials can be purchased from other Health Canada licenced holders. These license holders must be authorized to carry out these activities. Before commencing the transaction, proper verification procedures must be performed. The following questions must be answered and included in the verification process to determine if the company is a legal source for cannabis:

  • Is the company a federally license holder under the Cannabis Regulations?
  • Is the Health Canada license current, e.g. not expired?
  • Is the License Holder authorized to possess and sell cannabis plants and seeds?

Within the cannabis industry, a source of cannabis starting materials is considered legal if it was obtained in accordance with the former Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR), the former Industrial Hemp Regulations (IHR), the Industrial Hemp Regulations (IHR), the Cannabis Regulations or a provincially or territorially authorized retailer (subsection 62(1) of the Cannabis Act).

  1. Importing from Foreign Legal Sources

The Cannabis Act allows for the issuance of import permits to licensees, as long as the importation is done for medical or scientific purposes. This allows license holders to bring genetics from non-Canadian jurisdictions for the purpose of starting their own plants and developing new strains. This also allows bring in genetic material for the development of new and unique strains through breeding programs using diverse genetic stock.

It is important to note, that in addition to Health Canada’s import permit and requirements for importing starting material, the license holder must comply with the requirements of the Canadian Food Inspection Authority (CFIA). Licensees must also be aware of protected plant varieties in order to reduce their risk of intellectual property infringement.

  1. Section 10(2) One-Time Exemption

As a new Health Canada cultivation license holder, Section 10(2) of the Cannabis Regulations provides for a one-time exemption to possess starting materials that were not obtained through intra-industry transactions. This is an opportunity extended to new license holders and must be declared during the license application phase.

Under the one-time exemption referred to above, applicants for cultivation licences (whether standard cultivation licences, craft licences or nursery licences) will be required to submit to Health Canada a declaration of any genetics they possess that were not sourced from entities listed in Section 10(1) of the Cannabis Regulations. The declaration must indicate the quantity of cannabis plants and/or cannabis seeds that will be in your possession on the effective date of your licence. This declaration must also be signed and dated by the responsible person.

The number of cannabis plants and cannabis seeds brought in under a 10(2) declaration and recorded onto the Receiving Record must match the number of cannabis plants and cannabis seeds on the Declaration. There is no opportunity to bring in more cannabis plants and cannabis seeds under a new or supplemental 10(2) declaration once a licence is granted.

  1. Research License Holders

A cannabis research licence holder is authorized to cultivate cannabis for research purposes, and sell cannabis plants and seeds to holders of a cultivation licence. This provides the opportunity for License Holders to collaborate with research license holders with respect to purchasing starter materials and encourages the development and distribution of new genetics into the Canadian cannabis market.

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How CLE Can Help?

We at Cannabis Licensing Experts can help you out in sourcing cannabis materials. Our services include development and review of Standard Operating Procedures with respect to sourcing, verification and receiving starting material, preparation and guidance with respect to Health Canada Starting Material Declaration and importing starting materials.

Home cultivation across Canadian provinces after cannabis legalization

This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (

Associated Data


Little research exists on home cultivation in Canada after non-medical cannabis legalization in 2018. The aims of the study were to: (1) estimate the percentage of home cultivation before and after legalization; (2) estimate the quantity and expenditure of cannabis plants; and (3) examine the association between provincial policies and home cultivation after legalization.


Repeat cross-sectional survey data come from Canadian respondents in the International Cannabis Policy Study in 2018, 2019, and 2020. Respondents aged 16–65 were recruited through online commercial panels. Home cultivation rates were estimated among all respondents in 2019 and 2020 (n = 26,304) and among a sub-sample of past 12-month cannabis consumers in 2018–2020 (n = 12,493). Weighted multivariable logistic regression models examined the association between home cultivation and provincial policies among all respondents, 2019–2020.


Cannabis consumers in 2019 (7.9%; AOR = 1.47, 95% CI: 1.07,2.01) and 2020 (8.8%; AOR = 1.62, 95 %CI: 1.18,2.23) had higher odds of reporting home cultivation in the past 12 months than pre-legalization (5.8%). Post-legalization, past 12-month home cultivation was lower in Quebec and Manitoba, the two provinces that prohibited home cultivation (3.2%), than in provinces where home cultivation was permitted (6.8%; AOR = 0.48, 95 %CI: 0.39, 0.59). The median number of plants grown across all provinces was between 3.1 and 3.5 in all years.


Almost one in ten Canadian cannabis consumers reported home cultivation of cannabis in 2020, with modest increases following legalization and most growing within the non-medical limit of four plants. Home cultivation was less common in provinces where home cultivation was prohibited.

1. Introduction

On October 17, 2018, Canada became the second country in the world to legalize non-medical cannabis (Government of Canada, 2018). Briefly, the Cannabis Act permits adults aged 18 and over to purchase cannabis, cultivate up to four plants, and possess up to 30 g of dried flower (or equivalent, e.g., 30 cannabis seeds) in public (Government of Canada, 2018). Canadians can access legal non-medical cannabis through physical and online retail stores, sharing small amounts among friends and family, or growing personal cannabis plants (home cultivation).

Prior to the legalization of non-medical cannabis in 2018, home cultivation was permitted for consumers with medical authorization under certain conditions (Fischer et al., 2015, Government of Canada, 2016). Those with medical authorization were permitted to grow their own cannabis; or designate someone to grow cannabis on their behalf (Fischer et al., 2015, Walsh et al., 2013). In October 2018; immediately prior to legalization of non-medical cannabis, less than 1% of Canadians were registered with Health Canada for medical cannabis and 7.5% of Canadians with medical authorization had an active registration to grow or designate someone to grow on their behalf (Government of Canada, 2020, Statistics Canada, 2021). In October 2020; approximately two years after non-medical legalization, this percentage had risen to 11.3% (Government of Canada, 2020).

Under the Cannabis Act, unchanged from the preceding “Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes” regulations, the number of plants grown for medical consumption is determined by the daily quantity of cannabis outlined in the patient’s medical authorization (Government of Canada, 2016, Government of Canada, 2021). In general, for every gram of dried flower authorized, five plants are permitted indoors or two outdoors (Government of Canada, 2016, Government of Canada, 2021). For instance, if the patient is authorized two grams of dried flower per day, ten plants would be permitted indoors. Therefore, Canadians growing for medical purposes may have higher limits of the number of plants grown than Canadians growing for non-medical purposes (four plant limit) (Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, 2020). Moreover, provinces and territories have jurisdiction on retail sales and distribution, including prohibiting home cultivation, and so regulations vary across the country (Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, 2020). For example, Manitoba and Quebec prohibit home cultivation of non-medical cannabis, whereas all other provinces allow up to four plants (Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, 2020).

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In a legal market, allowing residents to grow their own cannabis at home provides a relatively low-cost source of cannabis for those who prefer not to purchase from retail stores or pay taxes, to have more control over cannabis strains, or for those growing for enjoyment (Caulkins et al., 2016, Transform Drugs Policy Foundation, 2016, Government of Canada, 2016). Indeed, home cultivation could support the objectives of the Cannabis Act, if those growing a personal supply are doing so instead of sourcing illegally (Caulkins et al., 2016, Transform Drugs Policy Foundation, 2016). Conversely, home cultivation has the potential to undermine objectives of the Cannabis Act, which include reducing the illegal market and prevent underage consumption (Government of Canada, 2018). Home cultivation could provide easier access to children in the home, allow opportunity for illegal resale, and avoid the strict regulations that were created to protect public health (Azofeifa et al., 2021, Government of Canada, 2018). Further research is needed on home cultivation in Canada since legalization, including who grows their own cannabis plants.

When compared to other supply sources such as friends and family or retail stores, home cultivation rates have been found to be comparably modest, both before and after legalization (Government of Canada, 2017, Rotermann, 2021). In the National Cannabis Survey; 8.0% of past three-month cannabis consumers reported getting their cannabis by growing their own or someone growing it for them before legalization in the first quarter of 2018 (Rotermann, 2021). In the first quarter of 2019; 9.0% reported past three-month home cultivation, which significantly increased to 14.2% in the fourth quarter of 2020 (Rotermann, 2021). Similar percentages of home cultivation were found in the Canadian Cannabis Survey among past 12-month consumers: 5.6% reported growing their own cannabis before legalization in 2018; compared to 9.0% and 15.3% after legalization in 2019 and 2020, respectively (Government of Canada, 2019, Government of Canada, 2017, Government of Canada, 2018, Government of Canada, 2020, Government of Canada, 2020). In 2020; the Canadian Cannabis Survey also reported home cultivation among Canadians who were not cannabis consumers in the past 12-months: 3.3% of non-consumers reported home cultivation in the home in 2020 (Government of Canada, 2020). However; neither survey examined how home cultivation varies by cultivation policies.

Previous research conducted in the United States (U.S.) examined individual and U.S. state characteristics associated with home cultivation (Azofeifa et al., 2021, Borodovsky and Budney, 2017, Nguyen et al., 2015). In a study examining individual characteristics of home cultivation among U.S. adults, approximately 2% of past-year consumers aged 21 and older reported growing cannabis between 2010 and 2014 (Azofeifa et al., 2021). Growing cannabis was significantly higher among males, those living in rural areas, and more frequent cannabis consumers. Three studies conducted in the U.S. examined the association between state legislation and home cultivation rates (Azofeifa et al., 2021, Borodovsky and Budney, 2017, Nguyen et al., 2015). In general, states with more permissive cannabis laws (e.g., medical cannabis laws, permitting home cultivation) had higher rates of respondents growing their own cannabis, demonstrating the impact of policy on individuals’ propensity to grow cannabis at home. To our knowledge, there is no research to date on the variation of home cultivation rates across the provinces in Canada after legalization.

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Research on non-medical home cultivation in Canada since non-medical cannabis legalization is nascent. To our knowledge, the current study is among the first to examine provincial policies and home cultivation among Canadians since legalization. The aims of the study were to: (1) estimate the percentage of Canadians who reported growing cannabis plants in 2019 and 2020 as well as past 12-month cannabis consumers who reported growing cannabis plants in 2018, 2019, and 2020; (2) estimate the quantity of plants and expenditure of cannabis plants/seeds; and (3) examine the association between provincial policies, cannabis use status, and home cultivation in 2019 and 2020.

2. Methods

Data are from Waves 1–3 of the International Cannabis Policy Study (ICPS), repeat cross-sectional surveys conducted in Canada and the U.S. Data were collected via self-completed web-based surveys before legalization in August-October 2018, and after legalization in September-October in 2019 and 2020 from respondents aged 16–65. A non-probability sample of respondents was recruited through the Nielsen Consumer Insights Global Panel and their partners’ panels. For the ICPS surveys, Nielsen draws stratified random samples from the online panels, with quotas based on age and state/province of residence. Nielsen emails panelists an invitation to access the ICPS survey via a hyperlink; respondents are unaware of the survey topic prior to accessing the link. Respondents confirm their eligibility and provide consent before completing the survey. Upon completion, respondents are transferred back to the Nielsen platform and receive remuneration in accordance with their panel’s usual incentive structure. Monetary incentives have been shown to increase response rates and decrease response bias in subgroups under-represented in surveys, including disadvantaged subgroups (Groves et al., 2009).

Surveys were conducted in English or French. Median survey time was 20 min in 2018, 25 min in 2019, and 21 min in 2020. Data integrity measures include checks for ‘speeders’ based on completion times, the quality of open-ended responses, patterns of ‘Don’t Know/Refusal’ responses, and inconsistent responses across items (American Association of Public Opinion Research (AAPOR), 2018).

The current study reports data from the Canadian sample only. In 2018, 17,157 Canadian respondents accessed the survey link, of whom 10,646 completed the entire survey for an AAPOR cooperation rate of 62% (American Association for Public Opinion Research, 2016). In 2019, 24,607 respondents accessed the survey link, of whom 17,513 completed the entire survey (63%) and in 2020, 25,827 respondents accessed the survey link, of whom 17,001 completed the entire survey (66%) (American Association for Public Opinion Research, 2016).

The study was reviewed by and received ethics clearance through a University of Waterloo Research Ethics Committee (ORE#31330). A full description of the study methods can be found in the ICPS Technical Reports and methodology paper (Goodman and Hammond, 2019, Goodman et al., 2020a, Goodman et al., 2020b, Hammond et al., 2020).

2.1. Measures

2.1.1. Socio-demographic measures

Sex at birth, age, ethnicity/race, highest education level, perceived income adequacy, suspected device type used to complete survey, and province of residence. For “perceived income adequacy”, those who answered, “Don’t know” or “Refuse to answer” were categorized to “Not stated”. See Table 1 for response options.

Table 1

Unweighted and weighted sample characteristics of Canadians in 2019, and 2020 (n = 31,036).