The state’s medical marijuana industry is gearing up for a significant overhaul to its current tracking system.
The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority announced Tuesday that state marijuana businesses can begin registering for training with Metrc, a regulatory cannabis system that operates in 15 other states across the country. The OMMA signed a contract with Metrc in September 2020 to implement a seed-to-sale tracking system for all marijuana products.
The state’s marijuana industry has grown significantly since it began in 2018 — statewide dispensaries reported more than $831 million in total revenue in 2020 — but the tracking system has been in need of an overhaul, OMMA director Kelly Williams said during a Zoom conference with reporters Wednesday. The OMMA issued two different recalls in 2020 for marijuana products that failed to meet testing requirements.
The main idea behind the new seed-to-sale system is to allow the OMMA and marijuana businesses to track and ensure the quality of marijuana products from a plant’s growth stage until it’s sold to a patient. The OMMA and marijuana businesses will have access to the online system operated by Metrc, which will let them monitor the processing, testing and sale of individual marijuana products.
As a plant is cloned from a mother plant, it will receive a unique tracking tag that stays with the plant through its vegetative and flowering state, Metrc Chief Operating Officer Lewis Koski said. Once plants are harvested, packaged and transported to a processing facility, the facility will accept the plants into its system and track them as other marijuana products are made.
At various points, some of the marijuana material will be set aside and sent to a testing facility to analyze for pesticides, microbials, additives and THC content, Kowski said. The processor will also conduct tests on the products, and all testing results will be put into Metrc’s system.
“Once the product makes it to the store front, there are as many as 370 different events that have been tracked throughout the system from the time [a product] was an immature plant up until it was a finished product,” Koski said. “What this allows regulators to do is it helps them to be able to tackle some of the core issues that are necessary for monitoring for compliance in a comprehensively regulated market.
“Regulators will be able to quickly identify products that may be dangerous to public health … Regulators can be able to identify products that are associated with the unsafe product and place it on hold within the confines of the system. So if they found that a particular batch of [edibles] were deemed unsafe, they would be able to use the information on the packaging of the product to trace it back through the supply chain to see [other similar] products [that are being tested] and be able to put that product on hold [for further testing.]”
Williams said Metrc’s system will allow the OMMA to better monitor marijuana products to ensure safety and quality.
“Every product movement is reported in Metrc’s system, so every time there’s a transfer between commercial licensees, every time something is planted or harvested, all of that is reported in Metrc’s system and is available to the state in real time so that we can have immediate awareness of everything that’s going on in the state,” Williams said. “All of these different pieces are tracked and we have the ability to lay eyes on it.”
Williams said another benefit to Metrc’s system is that the testing results of products that are reported in the system can be directly monitored by OMMA, Metrc and other commercial licensees to ensure transparency. The state’s previous tracking system relied on paper certificates of analysis from testing laboratories, which made it difficult to validate the results.
“We’ve had recalls in the past that resulted when the [business] who is reviewing those [certificates] and trying to make sure the product they are purchasing and going to put their name on at the end of the processing process matched up with the [certificate] they were given,” Williams said. “So being able to have a one-to-one standardized way for our commercial licensees to ensure that the product they’ve been given has been tested and is what the selling party says it is, they can really make sure that it’s all in place and that offers a lot of protection to our commercial licensees and of course to our patients.”
Currently, commercial licensees are required to utilize their own seed-to-sale system electronically or manually. Licensees are also required to have all of those records on site and provide monthly reports to the OMMA.
However, Metrc’s system will replace the mandatory monthly reports, and it will increase the efficiency of data collection for the OMMA and marijuana businesses, Williams said.
“Currently, all licensees are required to have records on site available for my staff [in case] we need to come in and do a compliance visit, do an audit or trace back the source of a plant or product — but it’s all on paper,” Williams said. “So it takes my team a lot of time any time we have to do a standard compliance visit or investigate any kind of issue. We have to go back, dig through paperwork and make sure they have [records] ... So instead of relying on paper trails, having it all in the system will really help expedite our response to any troubling issue.”
Training sign-ups for Metrc’s system opened on Tuesday, and Metrc will begin training on March 1. Training is required prior to credentialing in order to gain access to Metrc’s system, according to the OMMA website, and training and credentialing needs to be completed by March 26.
All businesses will be fully operational in Metrc by April 30.