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The medical marijuana market is one of Canada’s sunshine industries, poised for an exponential growth.
According to figures released by Health Canada, the governing body responsible for regulating medical marijuana,the country can expect to see $1.3 billion in sales annually and a user base of half a million.
But it’s not as simple as growing weed in your backyard.
The action has now moved to sprawling sites spread over thousands of square feet. And because of the value of the product, concerns over medical marijuana security are reflected in the fortress like design of these facilities.
It is in this context that you need to know what ULC is if you want to break into this lucrative market as a Licensed Provider (LP)
Why ULC is just not any standard for medical marijuana LPs
ULC (Underwriters Laboratories of Canada), founded in 1920, is an independent product testing, safety and certification body. It works closely with the government to support safety regulations at local, provincial and federal levels. ULC rigorously tests different types of products to ensure that they work as advertised.
These products include:
- Firefighting Equipment
- Fire extinguishers
- Fire alarms
- Security systems
- Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms
If you work in any regulated industry in Canada the products that you use in your shop floor, production areas or perimeter surroundings should all be ULC certified.
The regulatory hurdles around medical marijuana production
In Canada, the production, storage and distribution of medical marijuana is governed by the Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMRP).
Businesses that want to sell and distribute medical marijuana have to be MMRP Licensed Producers. They shall also fulfill multiple requirements in terms of security, as laid out in Health Canada’s Directive On Physical Security Requirements For Controlled Substances.
Security at LP facilitiesis designated at 11 levels, with Level 11 being the most stringent. Before July 2014, Level 5 and Level 6 LPs were allowed to do business under MMPR. But subsequently, Health Canada jacked up the security requirements, ruling that only businesses that are Level 7 certified and above will be able to grow and sell medical marijuana.
So what do you need to be a Level 7 LP in terms of security? The following are some of the minimum requirements in the electrical detection section of the directive mentioned above: (Side Note: All medical marijuana facilities are mandated to use a secure safe or vault for storing controlled substances or records. It’s the most sensitive location in the facility and the interiors have to be monitored continuously)
- Smoke detector inside vault.
- Sufficient detectors to indicate when there is an unauthorized attempt to access, penetrate, remove, or open the vault or safe.
- Detectors which will indicate when there is an unauthorized opening of the vault or safe door or any attempt to circumvent the detector is made.
- Control boxes for the security system are to be located inside the vault or safe.
- Proximity detector (capacitance detector) if used in conjunction with a safe must be placed either inside or underneath the safe whenever feasible. Alternate equivalent detection equipment may be used.
- Vault or safe alarm equipment is to be monitored by a U.L.C. (Underwriters Laboratories of Canada) approved central monitoring station. When such service is unavailable the Bureau will consider alternates.
For a Level 7 facility, the safe has to be burglar resistant and is ULC rated at a level ULC-TL-30.
To be a Level 8 facility, the lock on the safe needs to be rated at a higher ULC-TRTL-30 level.
The standards are especially stringent when it comes to the safe or the vault. For instance, these two clauses from the requirements of a Level 7 facility:
“7.1.4 All electrical conduit for the alarm system, security equipment, lighting, telephone, etc. shall be in accordance with any applicable electrical code. All conduit entering the walls, ceiling, or floor shall have at least one offset within the vault structure. Arrangement of bends shall be so that drainage is to the exterior. Conduit shall not exceed 3.8 cm (1 1/2″) diameter.”
It goes without saying that your electrical system should be ULC certified.
Erring on the side of caution
This is not about meeting the minimum requirements for facilities as laid out in the regulations, but about totallysecuring your medical marijuanabusiness.
A typical MMRP Level 7 and up medical marijuana facility represents a significant financial investment, sometimes to the tune of millions of dollars. Buildings need to be leased, personnel hired and lawyers paid to shepherd the license application through regulators before production can even begin.
Furthermore, the process of granting licenses by Health Canada is agonizingly slow, and according to data released by the body, as of August 2014:
- 1009 applications to grow medical marijuana were received.
- 462 were returned as incomplete.
- 201 were rejected.
- 32 were withdrawn
- 300 are still being processed.
- 2 licenses were allotted in 3 months.
As Health Canada doesn’t take medical marijuana security issues lightly,it stands to reason that your chances at getting the green signal will increase if you invest more in security.
Also, there isa chance that the agency can tighten their security requirements in response to heightened threats in the near future. If you meet the bare minimum requirements today, these changes might leave you out cold, forcing you to go through the costly and time consuming process of becoming a licensed producer all over again.
Can you afford the loss of business?
Using ULC certified products and solutions might mean an increase in upfront costs, but you will get your money’s worth, and peace of mind.
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