In California, it may prove more challenging to conduct business under the State’s new medical marijuana laws. In November 2016, the populace voted to legalize recreational cannabis, joining other states before them. It has been legal to use medical marijuana for years already, and the state has been meticulously monitoring and accounting for all medical cannabis cultivated legally within its jurisdiction.
Implications of Medical Marijuana Laws
The state has long perfected regulation of medical cannabis from its seed to its sale. According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, track-and-trace systems will be mandatory by June 14, 2017. Already prominent companies sell comprehensive software to track the lifespan of cannabis and ensure compliance with state regulatory authorities. This same system will track recreational weed too.
California Seed-To-Sale Laws
So far, the state encourages tracking compliance with medical marijuana dispensaries, testing facilities, production sites, and cultivation areas. According to the California Department of Finance, the Department of Consumer Affairs and the Bureau of Cannabis Control are now actively proposing to make it legally binding to anyone involved in the marijuana business, whether medicinally or not.
This legislature requires everyone to track every milligram of cannabis to make it easier for agencies to audit them and source any material back to its original harvest. To achieve this, all marijuana businesses in California must comply with its mandates. It means recording data about all aspects of the cannabis life cycle, from breeder to grower, distributor, retailer, and finally consumer. Along with much more:
- Its genetic origins.
- All growing conditions, such as water, light, pesticides, equipment, and biological matter used.
- Weight at various growing times, including vegetative stages, flowering and harvest.
- Detailed potency descriptions.
- Company and person responsible for distribution and delivery.
- How it enters production and what product it becomes.
- Retailer responsible for selling marijuana.
- Person involved in buying marijuana.
In fact, it is so much data to compile that software is necessary to comply with it. Furthermore, the sheer volume of it is creating regulatory hurdles on the path to legal operations. Gone are the days of opening a dispensary immediately after approval. Now, you need outstanding recordkeeping to document where every plant comes from, how it lives, where it goes, and who buys it for what reason.
Marijuana businesses in California have neither time nor resources to code tracking software systems. For this reason, companies must buy licenses from an emerging software group selling track-and-trace products, which must be extremely complex to assure compliance with an ever-evolving and demanding regulatory environment over cannabis.
Seed-to-sale laws in California involve tracking all unique aspects of the cannabis plant. Generic seed-to-sale software is unable to cope with this requirement. Companies must account for the entire plant, even as it goes through alterations, frequently by various groups before becoming its final product, and including specific weights and details of all waste and byproducts.
Enforcement of Cannabis Seed-To-Sale Rules in California
Any deviation in inventory from seed to harvest, production, distribution, and sale will instigate an investigation. This is the main goal of tracking from a regulatory viewpoint. It can prevent cannabis diversions, which are illegal, particularly as the plant is still a Schedule 1 drug federally. Tracking makes it easier to monitor product safety, help with audits, and assists in facilitating future recalls.
How Cannabis Seed-To-Sale Systems Work
Niche software can now organize data from seed site to harvest and finally dispensary. It does so effectively using a series of serial numbers. Each plant gets its own unique number, and every time it moves through the process, it gets another one, such as during testing, extraction, or making edibles. Each new number tracks its progress, and every old number documents its history.
Such software requires extensive databases to store highly sensitive and detailed information about people and plants, such as who buys a certain plant’s products, why they are buying marijuana, and even the plant’s location in a grow space and its size. This is real-time tracking that is allegedly fail-proof, and government agencies can use it against businesses, people and patients.
For example, seed-to-sale programs have already made random inspections easier on medical marijuana dispensary. Based on a stock discrepancy, officials may arrive unannounced, check each plant, weigh all drying and cured products, and may even request patients to submit their plants for inspection. To meet the obligations that allow this, companies must record over 20 characteristics about each plant.
Seed-to-sale marijuana compliance appears a full-time job. Medical marijuana employees already document time of planting, every weigh session, levels of THC and cannabinoids, designated patient, and endpoint dispensaries. Operations must account for every leaf to ensure they uphold California’s medical marijuana seed-to-sale laws.
The situation that recreational users face is the same. Cannabis customers will see similarities in California’s recreational marijuana stores. Now, companies are using radiofrequency identification to track cannabis plants. RFID is the same technology that people use to track their pets. There is a 24-digit ID number unique to every RFID chip, which updates easily at each phase of the production cycle.
This technology makes it easy to trace any plant with safety issues back to its original source, such as mold contamination, insect infestation, or other public concerns. Although encouraging public safety, such a state-mandated imposition has advocates concerned about the time compliance requires, what it costs to comply with such a program, and its susceptibility to human manipulation and error.