Track-and-Trace Services to Help Boost Kentucky’s Medical Cannabis Market

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In March of this year, Governor Andy Beshear signed Senate Bill 47, legalizing medical cannabis in the commonwealth effective January 1, 2025. Though sales will begin next year, an adult-use bill (House Bill 420) has already been proposed. 

To help support Kentucky’s regulation of its medical cannabis market, Metrc will be providing track-and-trace services for the state. The company is already providing these services to 24 other states, helping to ensure transparency and regulatory compliance. 

“In any situation that involves a controlled substance, which cannabis certainly falls into, track-and-trace is the backbone for infrastructure,” says Michael Johnson, CEO of Metrc. “Because data demonstrates where your products are in the supply chain, who’s involved and working with them, it helps to protect public health.”

Ensuring the Transparency and Safety of Cannabis

Track-and-trace services keep tabs on where products are in the production lifecycle. Through this system, licensed operators are able to track all activities impacting the status of a plant or the creation of cannabis-based products including origin, testing results, handling and chain-of-custody information.

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Michael Johnson, CEO of Metrc.

All of this is done through Metrc’s unique RFID tag model and software-as-a-service (SaaS) system – this information is then easily accessible to state regulators. Tracking all the medical marijuana within the state helps to ensure each product has been properly tested for public consumption, according to Johnson. 

These track-and-trace services are required by statute in every legal marijuana state and are hugely beneficial in a medical program so patients know they are getting medicine that has been properly tested. 

“It comes down to public health and safety,” Johnson explains. “Anytime you’re ingesting something, you want to make sure it’s free of contaminants, pesticides and mold. The number one thing that comes up in a cannabis lab is Aspergillus mold, so making sure the products are properly tested is critical.” 

The Kentucky Cannabis Boom

Currently, Kentucky is rumored to grow among the most cannabis out of every state despite its illegality. This, combined with the fact that Kentucky is considered one of the poorest states and is facing a declining tobacco industry, creates a potentially great opportunity for a legal cannabis market to boost the state’s economy. 

“In all of the states that we’ve seen pass marijuana provisions, folks have signed up quickly and the programs have grown rapidly,” explains Johnson. “The very first state we worked with was Colorado, and they were able to work out the kinks, get some acceleration and folks got comfortable with the medical program. There are a number of really strong medical markets and each of them have hundreds of thousands of participants.”

Assisting Kentucky’s Fight Against the Illicit Market

This is all assuming Kentucky is able to combat the illicit market. According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, several hundred thousand cannabis plants are eradicated indoors and outdoors each year in the state, ranking Kentucky as one of the largest producers of marijuana in the nation. Growers are also increasingly using violence to protect themselves and their crop in the state.

Johnson says that Metrc plans to help solve this problem. “Along with public health, Metrc also helps with inversion and diversion. When tracking every individual plant from its inception, including all transportation until its final sale, it creates a closed loop supply chain. This allows for strong visibility to be able to quickly discover the products that exit quickly and that aren’t part of the normal supply chain,” he explains. 

Currently, Kentucky is bordered by two states with adult and medical use cannabis programs: Illinois and Missouri. Getting Kentucky’s medical program online will be a major step forward for the state to catch up to its neighbors. And Metrc will play a huge part in helping them achieve that.