Interview: Protecting Cannabis from Seed to Sale

Among the more critical tasks in the legal cannabis industry is proper oversight of the product. How best to ensure that the substance is grown, processed, tested, transferred and sold properly? So many different people and processes touch and affect the plant before it reaches a consumer in some form or another. Protecting this chain is paramount to upholding public safety.

Enter Metrc. Working in 23 states, the long-standing company provides services that track and trace cannabis from growth, harvest and processing to testing, transport and sale, using software, radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology, a customer-support team and a secure database. The outcome is full supply-chain visibility.

For more on this topic, and a look at the current cannabis industry, we recently spoke with Metrc CEO Michael Johnson.

Cannabis Regulator: What exactly does Metrc do?

Michael Johnson: We protect public health as a partner of the industry and the government. We work towards a resilient supply chain and strong regulation.

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Our software allows regulations to be enforced because we collect data on the rules that people are required to follow. Our data includes 350 distinct events for each part of the cannabis lifecycle. There’s so much that goes on. For instance, you have the raw flower, the plant, that’s pulled apart, sent around, becomes oil, sent somewhere else, becomes a gummy or a cookie. It’s important for public health and safety that all this happens in a closed-loop supply chain, so that there are no openings for the cannabis to disappear into the wrong hands.

From an industry consumer standpoint, it’s important to have visibility and resiliency with the cannabis supply chain. And when it comes to public health, a healthy industry is a growing industry.

CR: What are the challenges you see in cannabis regulation?

Metrc CEO Michael Johnson

MJ: It’s a challenge, like anything else. The industry is still in its infancy, and it’s remarkable that we’ve already made so much progress. But the problem is that nobody went to school for cannabis regulation, and they’re all now regulating cannabis for the first time. I think the vast majority of people are regulating the right way, and we try to support them with what we do, helping create a robust marketplace while protecting public safety.

That said, while there are a lot of industry-wide accepted truths, the processes are not the same, state to state. For instance, testing occurs in a different part of the supply chain, depending on the state.

CR: When will we see federal legalization?

MJ: It’s a complicated issue. There’s a number of different viewpoints, and people with different motivations. Us, we’re agnostic. We try to remain a good partner to the state and federal governments.

CR: Any thoughts on the recent election cycle, where statewide legalization succeeded in two states but fell short in three others?

MJ: There were a lot of big wins for the industry, but also opportunities for better education in other areas. But we’re paying close attention to the states that voted to expand cannabis legalization: Maryland and Missouri.

This interview was edited and condensed for publication.

Kyle Swartz is editor of Cannabis Regulator. Reach him at kswartz@epgmediallc.com. Read his recent piece, Interview: What’s Holding Back Cannabis Beverages?