There’s a subtle but savory irony in the fact that an industry that has historically measured its core product in both grams and ounces has embraced a platform called METRC. But what is METRC, exactly? METRC — which stands for Marijuana Enforcement Tracking Reporting and Compliance — is a comprehensive cannabis compliance system that handles tracking, tracing, trending, and reporting from seed to sale, and it’s gone awry in California.
If you’re operating a cannabis business in one of the 14 states that have mandated METRC’s implementation, it’s your whole world. If you’re in California, however, METRC is likely your new nightmare. Implementing the cloud-based system, which uses RFID tags on both plants and packages, hasn’t been a smooth ride in the Golden State.
We’re here to help California cannabis businesses get a handle on METRC compliance.
Trouble in the Golden State
California is a special case when it comes to marijuana. It was the first state to have a legal medical cannabis industry, but it took the legislature nearly 20 years to come up with a regulatory scheme to police it. California cannabis has been lagging behind in other areas too, including the adoption of METRC, which was used first by Colorado back in 2011. The Golden State didn’t sign on with METRC until 2017 and gave cannabis businesses until the end of October 2019 to become compliant.
METRC is the force behind California’s Cannabis Track-and-Trace (CCTT) program, and the transition to the new system has been brutal. In the first week of November 2019 alone, California’s Bureau of Cannabis Control suspended over 400 licenses for improper METRC compliance. The action, though justified, threw the state market into chaos, and the consequences are still reverberating today.
Further complicating the situation is the fact that multiple local jurisdictions have tracking system requirements of their own, and naturally, they didn’t choose the same platform as state regulators. This has been a massive point of confusion.
What do you do if you’re in one of these localities? Do you follow the municipal guidelines or those of the state? The answer is both. Luckily, there are third-party software applications that can integrate the various systems, but you’ll encounter some redundancies, no matter what.
Be Smart with Inventory Reconciliation
CCTT, with the help of METRC, is intended to track the inventory and movement of all cannabis products in California. Compliance is necessary to remain in operation. California regulation requires that business across all cannabis verticals reconcile their inventory a minimum of once every 30 days, but that’s not enough.
What can be done? Be proactive and don’t procrastinate. Reconcile your inventory at least once a week; daily, if you can.
Still, many cannabis businesses have thousands upon thousands of inventory units, which makes frequent inventory reconciliation challenging — and all the more important. The best way to tackle the task is to break it up into digestible portions. Consider covering one category per day. That way, you’re always up to date, but never overwhelmed by the process.
Up Your METRC Training Game
Understanding METRC and how it integrates with California’s unique regulatory landscape is vital for businesses in the state. Just like your inventory reconciliation, training for METRC shouldn’t be a “one and done” situation. METRC is in a state of perpetual upgrades to meet the needs of this ever-evolving industry. Therefore training needs to be ongoing and consistent.
You should also make sure that more than one team member undergoes the training to avoid any lapses caused by employee turnover. However, not every employee needs comprehensive system training. Adopting a “need to know” approach is recommended. Be strategic with your resources and they’ll stretch a lot further.
Likely, the average dispensary will need approximately two METRC-trained compliance officers for every 10 employees. For other operations like cultivators or distributors, that number will be more nuanced and case-specific.
Don’t Be Afraid to Seek Outside Help
METRC covers far too many intricacies for anyone to be a quick study. Outside expertise is needed — but don’t look to the state of California for help; they’re too busy trying to learn the system themselves.
You need a bona fide expert with years of experience. There’s too much to learn and too much at risk to handle it any other way. Remember, it’s not a “one and done” situation, nor is it one-size-fits-all. It’s nuanced, it’s complicated, and it’s 100% mandatory in California. Getting — and staying — up to speed with METRC will keep your business compliant and operational, which means you won’t lose money.
HYC offers a compliance program that’s not only comprehensive but also fully customizable to meet the individual needs of cannabis businesses of every size and at every point in the vertical.
It’s past time to go METRC, California. Contact us today, and let us help you tackle all of your unique compliance-related challenges.