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California Cannabis Operators Adjust to Metrc, the State’s Track & Trace System

As of 12:01 a.m. on Monday morning, Jan. 6, any California cannabis business that isn’t using the state’s cannabis tracking system runs the risk of being fined or having their license suspended.

Two years ago, on Jan. 2, 2018, California’s track-and-trace system Metrc became available for permitted cannabis businesses, but amid a bumpy rollout, the percentage of cannabis growers, sellers and manufacturers who had adopted Metrc remained in the single digits as late as last May.

Many experts consider the successful, full implementation of the Metrc system one of the last major hurdles for California’s budding cannabis industry to conquer. The industry still has to deal with the crazy taxes that keep the black market three times the size of the legal one and getting access to proper financial services, but the full Metrc conversion date was lurking on the calendar for a long time — and now it has passed. It remains to be seen how many companies will face penalties from the state because they haven’t complied yet.

Metrc argues its data provides four key services to states who use its software: It tracks the location of cannabis at any point in the supply chain, traces the origin of product in the event it’s needed, can be used to identify trends, and can report on the success of a state’s program overall.  

The cannabis supply chain starts on the farms that produce legal marijuana, and now those farmers who spent their lives living in the shadows must have every plant barcoded for easy tracking by all relevant authorities. Brett Alan Reisner, the founder of Pynekone, has spent the last few years in the hills of Northern California helping farmers prepare for this moment.

“This being my third season managing track and trace for the farmers of the Emerald Triangle,” Reisner said. “Most of my clients have been telling me all season how their neighbor/friend will eventually need help with Metrc.”

Two breeders, who requested anonymity, told Cannabis Now that it was taking an inordinate amount of time to catalog and weigh the seeds that make up their massive genetic libraries into the Metrc system.

Also, one distributor said they currently have around $15,000 in product in Metrc “purgatory,” as they wait for instruction from the state on what to do with the goods. They had already sold the cannabis before getting the hold. The profits on the pile would be enough to pay the rent. Also, the product passed testing 45 days ago, the longer it sits the more it loses value.

Once the cannabis data itself is in the system successfully though, it should be very accessible and easy to work with, particularly for dispensaries buying and selling the plant. One of the folks who was looking forward to the organizational aspects of the Metrc transition was Dylan Brewington, the buyer for one of the Bay Area’s longtime dispensaries, Garden of Eden.

“With the implementation of Metrc, there has been a strong learning curve, but with that learning curve has come great ease in the process,” Brewington told Cannabis Now. “Hunting down [certificates of analysis] are a thing of the past. Trying to narrow down those delivery times? Never again.”

Brewington said with all the info posted to the Metrc site, he has full clarity on the product he is receiving.

“Being able to check harvest dates more quickly has also been a massive improvement. This ensures a quality experience from seed to sale for the consumer,” Brewington said. “Metrc might be the third and hopefully final hurdle in what has been an arduous several years in legal cannabis. Metrc is here to make life easier, let it.”

We asked Brewington if he thought the process was too intensive as some others have claimed.

“I don’t think it’s over the top, I think it’s new,” he said. “I also think this industry has been forced into such an ‘adapt or die’ mentality that any time something new comes up, it’s viewed as more unneeded regulation or an attack. It’s not. For any other consumable product there is a track and trace mechanism.”

He added, “I can say confidently that when I look into Metrc at what’s coming in, I have more confidence than I once did about products. The reduction in rep communication as a buyer is also priceless.”

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