Canada’s health regulator has blamed Covid-19 for the delay in approving export permits to Australia after admitting it is still processing applications received in January.

With staff working remotely because of the pandemic, Health Canada warned the industry to expect “disruption and delays” as it works through applications.

Nevertheless, the regulator still said it has so far approved 33 permits to export dried cannabis and cannabis extracts to Australia in 2021, mainly from applications lodged in 2020.

Four of the 33 permits have been issued for applications received in 2021, Health Canada said.

Cannabiz is seeking to clarify how many of the approved permits included dried flower.

The delays go some way to explaining Australia’s shortage of dried flower in recent weeks, which have hampered the ability of patients to secure a continuous supply of medication.

A sharp rise in demand for dried flower has also added to the paucity of available product.

Health Canada told Cannabiz in a statement that it receives “many” applications to export dried cannabis and cannabis extracts to Australia.

“To date in 2021, Health Canada has issued 33 permits to export cannabis to Australia, including four permits for applications that were received in 2021,” a spokesperson said. “There are additional applications in a queue that will be processed in the order they were received.”

The regulator added: “Health Canada is maintaining core services during the Covid-19 pandemic, to ensure that the cannabis sector can continue to operate with appropriate oversight and control.

The shortage of flower has hit Australian patients

“While Health Canada is working to process applications as quickly as possible, applicants may experience some disruptions or delays as staff are working remotely.”

Health Canada said it has a non-binding target to process 85% of applications within 30 business days from receipt of payment, not including the time when an applicant is asked to provide more information.

As of March 17, approximately 71% of cannabis applications submitted in 2020 met the 30-day service standard, the spokesperson said.

“The import and export team is currently processing applications that were submitted in January 2021.”

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