When California voters broadly legalized marijuana, they were promised that a vast computer platform would closely monitor products moving through the new market. But 16 months after sales kicked in, the system known as track-and-trace isn’t doing much of either.
As of last month, just nine retail outlets were entering data into the network established under an estimated $60 million state contract, even though 627 shops are licensed to sell pot in California.
The rate of participation is similarly slim for other sectors in the emerging industry.
Only 93 of more than 1,000 licensed manufacturing companies producing extracts, oils and other products were documenting their activities in the network in April. And of the nearly 4,000 licensed growers, only about 7 per cent, or 254, are using the high-tech system, according to a review of state data.
How are state officials watching over the nation’s largest legal pot market? For now, it’s essentially a paper trail.
Most California companies are required to document their business on paper sales invoices and shipping manifests. But experts say that can be a doorway for criminal traffic.
With paper records, regulators are relying on an honour system, said Patrick Vo, CEO of BioTrackTHC, which provides seed-to-sale cannabis tracking in eight states, including New York and Illinois.
Without a digital crumb trail in place, “there are so many areas where things can go wrong,” Vo said. “Things can be intentionally altered.”
Track-and-trace sometimes is referred to as seed-to-sale to reflect the goal of tracking marijuana plants every step, from the time they are planted until products are purchased by consumers. The goal is to keep illegal cannabis from store shelves while making sure legally produced products don’t drift into the underground market.
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