My latest Cannabis Stakeholders Discussion Series was focused on Track & Trace Models for Cannabis. This was our best-attended event yet, with a capacity crowd in the auditorium, jammed conference call lines and a full overflow room as well.
The amazing turnout for this discussion underscores how central the ability to track and trace cannabis is to what we are trying to achieve: a fully regulated, fully integrated, fully complying cannabis industry in California.
We saw demonstrations of a number of different Track & Trace platforms, each of which proved that we can implement a simple, yet sophisticated, set of Track & Trace regulations. We heard from policy experts at the RAND Corporation, and we had an insightful and informative panel led by officials from the Oregon Bureau of Liquor Control, which regulates cannabis in our neighbor to the north.
These are the key takeaways from our discussion:
- Technology is the great equalizer. The sophisticated platforms available to regulators (and the industry) for tracking every individual seed, plant and product throughout the entire supply chain will make assessing, auditing and collecting taxes simpler for SBOE, while making it incalculably easier to drive the bad actors out of the industry altogether. As the newly elected Chair of the BOE, this is one of my highest priorities.
- Make life easier for Law Enforcement. Today, if a California Highway Patrol officer pulled over a generic looking cargo van with 200 pounds of cannabis in the back, he or she is walking into a blind situation. How can that officer tell if the cannabis was grown for patients of a collective, or by illegal grow operations? How can that officer know whether the driver they are approaching is a fully licensed, excellently trained and sober professional, or a person driving illegally who is liable to take off on a dangerous high speed chase? A seamless Track & Trace program will vastly improve the ability of law enforcement to do its job of keeping Californians safe, and answers one of the biggest question marks looming over legalization in the minds of a majority of voters: do law enforcement officials believe we will be safer, or less safe, if legalization occurs.
- Instant & Total Recall. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the name “Chipotle?” Given the recent headlines (and headaches) for that company, you are probably not thinking good thoughts. This recent, unfortunate example shows why Track & Trace is not only a compliance or transportation issue—it’s also a consumer safety issue. Accidental contamination can happen even at the most meticulous of operations. It’s the natural result of growing things in the ground, and we take that chance with everything from spinach to milk.
Cannabis is classified as an agricultural product in California now. It should be treated no different than cantaloupe or cauliflower, and when we find that consumers have been sold tainted/contaminated produce and meats, we have the ability to yank unsold product from the shelves and get the word out to consumers who have already brought those items home. Consumers and regulators need a viable Track & Trace model that allows for flexibility and speed in critical situations where there is the potential for people to be harmed.
Having a seamless Track & Trace model will be a crucial step forward for the industry, as well as for SBOE. For the first time, we will have accurate data about how much cannabis is grown, sold and consumed in California. It will help drive momentum for Congress to finally act on resolving the banking blackout faced by the industry, while shutting down the bad actors. Consumers will be safer, law enforcement will be able to enforce the laws with much more precision and effectiveness, and the industry will cross a major benchmark in its growth and maturity.
This is one of my highest priorities as Chair of SBOE, and I look forward to working with the Governor’s Office of Medicinal Marijuana, the Department of Public Health, the Department of Agriculture and, most crucially, California’s cannabis growers and collectives on putting in place the best Track & Trace program possible.