Legal cannabis must be accounted for down to the plant. When it’s tested for pesticides and other contaminants, the State of California can trace the plant all the way back to a specific location on the farm. This is great for consumer protection and for eliminating the black market. Cannabis grown legally is followed from seed to sale (or in most cases clone to sale). Each plant gets a bar code that’s entered in METRC, the track and trace software. It’s a gargantuan undertaking for farms and a necessary one for transparency in the new market. Whitney Collie, the compliance supervisor at Coastal Blooms in Carpinteria Valley, explains how it all works.
WHAT IS YOUR ROLE IN METRC AT COASTAL BLOOMS …
I work with our inventory admin supervisor and on the ground METRC team to make sure all plants are tagged (and tagged correctly), all transports are properly executed and everything in the greenhouse is accurately reflected in the METRC system.
IN A NUTSHELL, WHAT IS METRC OR “TRACK AND TRACE” AND WHAT DOES IT ACCOMPLISH?
METRC is the application programing interface, or API, hired by the state of California to track all cannabis and cannabis products from the time they are clones (or seeds) until the final product that goes home with the customer. What does it accomplish? Besides headaches, METRC tracks plants from immature or veg state, through the flowering phase, harvest, processing and packaging, through testing and onto retail sale. It creates the ability to see exactly what harvest batch a finished product came from, which gives the state the ability to do a recall if needed. Like with melons or lettuce, if a recall is required the state would be able to locate all the products that came from a batch that had an issue.
HOW MANY PLANTS ARE TAGGED WITH BAR CODES AND GROWING AT ANY GIVEN TIME AT YOUR FARM?
Thousands! All our plants in flowering stage are tagged with individual bar codes and all our plants in veg stage are tagged in batches of 100 plants or less (and each batch has one bar code).
WHAT QUANTITY IS IN A ‘BATCH’ OF HARVESTED CANNABIS?
A harvested batch is cannabis harvested at one time in one license that is all the same strain. So a batch can have as little as one plant in it or as many as 4,000. (4,000 is the maximum amount of plant tags one license can have on hand at a time.)
HOW DO YOU ENSURE THAT A BATCH REMAINS CONNECTED TO CERTAIN PLANTS AND THEIR CORRESPONDING TAGS AT HARVEST?
When plants are immature they are grouped in batches of 100 or less, when they are transported to our flowering licenses, each plant receives an individual plant tag. We have several systems in place to ensure the correct batches are moved to the correct licenses and that the correct individual flower tags are assigned to each batch. When the plants are harvested they no longer have individual plant UID tags and instead become one harvest batch. Through METRC we can see which immature batches the individual flowering plants came from and the plant IDs went into which harvest batch.
WHEN THE PRODUCT IS SENT THROUGH A DISTRIBUTOR FOR TESTING, CAN A TESTING LAB TRACE IT BACK TO A SINGLE PLANT OR GROUP OF PLANTS?
Because the individual plants that make up a harvest get grouped into a single package or batch the lab cannot trace results back to a single plant but it can see which batch the product came from and which plants went into that batch.
HOW DOES THE STATE ENFORCE METRC
The state does inspections, sometimes with notice and sometimes without, to ensure cultivators are in compliance with everything including track and trace.