• Compliance is absolutely necessary for the success of any Cannabusiness
  • The State requires Seed-To-Sale tracking for all businesses producing and selling product
  • LARA has decided to implement METRC, a very popular Seed-To-Sale program used in mature markets around the country

As the “green rush” continues throughout Michigan and much of the United States, more and more people are clamoring to join the cannabis industry.  No matter what type of cannabusiness you choose, the bottom line remains the same. You’re in the compliance business.

Proprietors in a regulated market have an obligation to remain compliant with the requirements under whose jurisdiction they operate. This generally engages the laws of your local municipality, possibly your county, and certainly your state.

While there are many components of compliance for cannabis companies to assure the longevity of their business, one aspect stands dutifully above others: system product tracking.

System Product Tracking Explained

Systems for tracking cannabis products, known as Seed-to-Sale programs, allow for a transparency that prevents illicit engagement. Companies are required to enter all forms of data regarding their products. This includes but is not limited to: seed purchase, seed germination dates, planting dates, phase of grow cycle, strain, batch number, harvest date, processed date, business or client sold to, etc. At multiple phases along the route, measurements of weight are taken to monitor growth and changes from flower, to trimming, to processing etc. Additionally, the method by which all unusable components are destroyed must be disclosed.

While many companies opt to enter this information by hand, automation promotes productivity and efficiency. Often, digital scales with specific data logging exportation features can be employed to upload accurate weight information.

The model established by most legal markets is a two part system. Companies are required to track their own records in an in-house Seed-to-Sale system, and upload this data to the state’s accessible Seed-to-Sale system for monitoring and oversight. While companies are free to choose a program that simply integrates through an application programming interface (API) many elect to use the same software provider as the state. This provides for fluidity in data transfer and integration.

Michigan’s Seed-To-Sale Software of Choice

Michigan Licensing and Regulatory Affairs and the Medical Marijuana Licensing Board have chosen an established industry servicer called METRC (pronounced like metric). METRC, or Marijuana Enforcement Tracking Reporting & Compliance, was first deployed in late 2013 for the state of Colorado. According to the company’s website, they have “registered over 20,000 users and tracked well over 5,000,000 plants and 3,800,000 packages.” Today the company helps oversee the markets for Alaska, California, Colorado, Maryland, Michigan (soon), Nevada, Ohio, and Oregon.

With a list including some of the industry’s top performing and oldest markets, it is evident why Michigan authorities chose this particular system provider. Indeed, even Washington was speaking with METRC about implementation but the deal apparently fell through.

METRC Explained

METRC gives governments the ability to detect black market dealings, and allows for greater security for compliant businesses. If an audit ever were to come from any regulatory body, a compliant company holds a digital record of their compliance in all aspects, effectively proving they are operating within the law.  The system is privately hosted, and functions in real-time to utilize tagging attached to each plant and labels attached to wholesale shipments.

While transparency provides benefits to both governing bodies and companies, METRC has more to offer. Firstly there is no charge for the system use to licensees. There are, however, Remote Frequency Identification Tags which are utilized to digitally scan and input data for crops and products. Each plant will be marked with one and, while cheap they are not free.  In some states the full cost of the tags is levied upon companies (a mere $1.00 per unit) but in Michigan the state has chosen to cover this minor expense. Business owners will have to pay shipping and handling for initial tag orders.

To get started with the system there will be continuous updates by LARA and METRC to offer entrepreneurs insight regarding system functionality and implementation. The company encourages looking over their selection of teaching material available on their YouTube channel. The channel is called Metrc Training and has two videos totaling only 10 minutes and 27 seconds. While this is certainly a start, it does seem somewhat inadequate. Part of this comes from a desire to teach the basics of the system, while knowing that each state has some level of customization available to them and that specific features may not be offered everywhere.

Being completely web-hosted allows for some flexibility with remote access and does not require a download or installation. No additional hardware such as RFID readers or bar code scanners are required, though efficiency is increased dramatically by purchasing these tools.

Each business’s data is kept separate and private from other businesses, effectively protecting all information of licensees. Only the governing body and technical staff from METRC will have access when necessary. METRC even has a dedicated support team in place for the resolution of technical issues.

Regulation is Key for the Success of the Cannabis Industry

While the results of this cannabis experiment in the United States are yet to be tallied, it has become increasingly clear that regulation and transparency aid the advancement of cannabis in America. No matter the capacity in which you enter the industry, full-scale transparent tracking will help you see the success of your business. This allows more effective operation and understanding for the future.

A note from the Michigan Bureau of Medical Marihuana Regulation:

Attention newly licensed facilities: you will be required to attend online training with METRC, the State’s approved seed-to-sale tracking system, before you can use the system. Use of METRC, either directly or indirectly via an authorized third-party integrator, is required. Training begins Tuesday, 8/14/18 from 12:30 – 2:30pm, and will continue every Tuesday for the next 2 months. You can sign up to attend at www.metrc.com/michigan.