What is the California Cannabis Track-and-Trace System?

How does the government maintain a tight leash on the newly decriminalized and vibrant cannabis industry in California? By creating, enforcing, and optimizing the new California Cannabis Track-and-Trace system. The question is now, will it be good or bad for the california cannabis industry?

In a nutshell, all California-based cannabis growers, distributors, labs, manufacturers, and dispensaries need to register with the state-approved digital track-and-trace system. This system exists to inspect the stock and transfer of cannabis and canna-products down California’s supply chain.

This will likely drive up labor and software/technology costs for cannabusiness owners. But, it isn’t all that bad. Both government and cannabis producers agree that this system is effective in enforcing quality control. It’s also a great way of identifying illegal vendors since all legal retailers already have state-issued licenses. Plus, it makes it difficult for cannabis growers to illegally sell products to black market suppliers. In addition to enforcing federal government policies, this system enables cannabis vendors to maintain accurate sales and inventory records.


California Track-and-Trace Software: How it all started

California enforced the Marijuana Enforcement Tracking and Compliance (METRC) and BiotrackTHC digital systems after enacting Prop 64 in January 2018. Legislators found this system best suited for California’s marijuana industry because Colorado growers and vendors have used it successfully since 2013.

After consulting with various stakeholders, California approved BiotrackTHC and METRC as its preferred track-and-trace systems. BioTrackTHC enjoys federal government support in Arkansas, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, New Mexico, and New York.  However, METRC remains as the most preferred system in California. Apart from high reliability, these cannabis track-and-trace digital systems also come with smartphone apps to facilitate convenient data entry and product tracking.

If you live in Humboldt County, you’ll need to create a profile on a different cannabis track-and-trace digital system called SICPATRACE. Prop 64 allows counties to establish their own marijuana laws including choosing their preferred track-and-trace systems.


Three Quick Cannabis Facts about METRC

1. Facilitates online application of cannabis licenses

As a medium or large-scale cannabis cultivator, you understand the frequent challenges associated with discovering new strains, monitoring your plantation, and seeking bulk customers. Juggling these responsibilities can be so overwhelming that you lack enough time to drive to the California Bureau of Cannabis Control in order to apply for annual licenses.

METRC enables new cannabis growers, distributors, manufacturers, labs, and retailers to apply for annual licenses from the convenience of their offices or homes.

2. Provides a more reliable system of tracking canna-products

METRC creates unique product tags to ensure proper monitoring at different supply chain levels. Once you create a product tag, you can track it down to the retailer because METRC records all product tags in cloud-storage servers. This system provides cultivators and manufacturers with two important benefits.

First, since the law requires all products to carry a unique tag, you’ll spend less time auditing your inventory records. Second, it’s easy to calculate your product’s turnaround duration by monitoring how long it takes for dispensaries to run out of stock. Once the retailer depletes their products, he or she deletes the METRC product tag from their inventory.

3. Compatible with government’s cannabis identification policies

Currently, the California Bureau of Cannabis Control requires all cultivators and manufacturers to use Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) on all plants and canna-products packages. These RFID tags enable state inspectors to easily identify the origin of cannabis products by scanning barcodes found on buds, concentrates, and lab samples.

Cannabis growers and vendors with temporary licenses cannot acquire licenses directly from METRC. The law prohibits them from using METRC tags in their nurseries. In addition, you need to fill out extra paperwork when supplying vendors operating with temporary licenses.


How does California’s Cannabis Track-and-Trace System work?

Tracking starts in the nursery

Under the METRC system, cultivators need Unique Identifier (UID) tags for flowering and vegetating plants. You’ll create this tag immediately your shoots transition into the vegetative phase. The tag helps state officials and other cannabis dealers to identify a cultivator, license number, strain, and whether it’s medical or recreational.

Once you create a UID for flowering plants, METRC provides you with a table where you record all events in an orderly fashion. For instance, relocating vegetating plants from one room to the next, dates when you spotted pests or diseases, or when flowering began. If you have an employee assigned to your grow rooms, create a separate column labeled with his or her name.  

Doing this enforces accountability since the employee is required to indicate their name after performing a particular task.

Transitioning leads to new tabs

Once your flowering plants are ready for harvesting, you’ll create a new tab titled “Harvested”. Next, transfer all details pertaining to your vegetative plants to your newly created tab. In the new tab, you’ll have separate rows for harvest batch numbers, strains, number of plants, and quantity of waste.

Since harvesting cannabis involves drying, METRC provides different rows where cultivators indicate whether a plant is in the drying room or dried and ready for packaging.

You need new UIDs to transfer cannabis or canna-products

After harvesting, comes lab testing. Since Prop 64 only allows distributors to transport cannabis samples from cultivators to state-approved labs, you need to create new UIDs for compliance purposes. Each canna-product package for buds, sugar leaves, and dry sift kief requires separate Unique Identifiers.

Learn the basic rules governing cannabis transfer in California’s supply chain

These rules only apply to cannabis cultivators who own valid annual licenses.

  1. You need to create a hard-copy transfer manifest using METRC when transporting cannabis or canna-products to vendors with temporary licenses.
  1. a) If you’re a cannabis manufacturer receiving cannabis packages from a cultivator with a temporary license, ensure that the cultivator has a hard-copy travel manifest that’s compatible with the California Bureau of Cannabis Control.
  1.            b) After receiving your packages, copy the information to METRC then create new UID package tags.
  2.   Always record the arrival and departure times of all packages in your METRC travel manifests.
  3.   Never accept packages that don’t match the details provided in their respective travel manifests.


Enjoy this video preview of METRC:

The Best Cannabis Track-and-Trace Systems

If you’ve just received your temporary cannabis cultivator, manufacturer or vendor license, you can digitize your operations by purchasing alternative cannabis track-and-trace systems. Owning this system helps you to keep track of your employees by simply checking the logs entered in your nursery’s UIDs. These systems are wonderful grow-journals because you can upload data entries directly to cloud storage accounts.

Feel free to check out these three, cannabis track-and-trace digital systems listed below.


Final Words on METRC

Now that you’ve read this article, you know that how challenging it is trying to purchase and transport cannabis packages if you only have a temporary license. The only way to avoid filing extra paperwork every time you purchase cannabis packages from METRC compliant cultivators is applying for an annual license.

Justin Meerkat

Cannabis Entrepreneur & Cofounder GetHigh.com | Follow @justinmeerkat on Instagram

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