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Top 3 Transportation Compliance Infractions: All Colorado Medical and Recreational Licensees

By Steve Owens

The Cannabis Industry is one of the most highly regulated industries in the world, on par with financial services, pharmaceuticals, gaming, and health care with regard to the depth and complexity of the regulatory framework.

Not only are cannabis businesses subject to state licensing and regulatory requirements, they must also adhere to city, county, and federal (yes, federal) regulations and authorities as well.

It’s a highly complex endeavor that is subject to many pitfalls.

Compliance with transportation requirements for marijuana and marijuana product is particularly important with regard to protecting employee and public safety and maintaining chain of custody over inventory. Colorado recently added a new license type for cannabis couriers, expanding options for businesses to transport or distribute their products. Regardless of whether it’s an employee or a third-party courier transporting the cannabis, the objectives of maintaining public safety and chain of custody still apply.

The following list of top transportation compliance infractions for medical and retail/recreational licensees in Colorado was obtained from the results of over 400 regulatory compliance assessments conducted since August 2014.

Top 3 Transportation Compliance Infractions for Colorado Licensees

  1. Marijuana and marijuana product not placed within a sealed, tamper-evident shipping container prior to transport.
  2. The scale used to weigh product to be transported has not been tested, approved and certified.
  3. The vehicle used for the transport of marijuana or marijuana product is not registered with the Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles (e.g., has Colorado plates).

Shipping Containers

In Colorado, medical and recreational licensees are required to put marijuana and marijuana product in “sealed, tamper-evident” shipping containers, which are subject to weight limits and must each be affixed with RFID tracking tags for transport.

Marijuana concentrates and infused products must be individually packaged and ready for sale within shipping containers, whereas flower does not necessarily have to be individually packaged prior to transport (though there are other concerns with choosing not to pre-package quantities of flower prior to transport to the dispensary/store, particularly on the recreational side with strict possession limits, especially for out-of-state customers currently).

The term “tamper-evident” is defined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as, “having one or more indicators or barriers to entry which, if breached or missing, can reasonably be expected to provide visible evidence to consumers that tampering has occurred.” The FDA further clarifies that the indicator/barrier must be “distinctive by design”, meaning its design or the material from which it’s made isn’t readily available to the public.

The use of tamper-evident tape to seal shipping containers is the most common way to address this requirement. However, there are other methods available to meet this requirement such as use of Pelican Cases or a similar product for shipping containers. Alternatively, some infused product manufacturers have implemented use of blister packs for individual products, putting the tamper-evident feature at the individual product/package level.

The term “sealed,” however, especially with regard to a shipping container as opposed to the final product packaging, is much more nebulous. For example, because of this ambiguity in the Colorado statutes, many licensees are still transporting product in black trash bags. While an argument could be made that trash bags meet the “sealed” requirement, it’s a dubious claim that you wouldn’t want a regulator making a judgment call on. Recommended alternatives to trash bags include things like rubber bins with locking lids or cardboard boxes that are sealed with tamper-evident tape.


Any scale used to determine a weight that will be entered into the state-mandated inventory tracking system must be calibrated and certified at least every 12 months in accordance with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s weights and measurement standards. The onus to obtain or renew certification for scales is on the business, so this can easily slip off many licensees’ radar if they haven’t developed a schedule and reminder mechanism.

Inaccurate scales will cause inventory reconciliation issues, both within a single business’ records and between businesses that sell/buy product from one another. Uncalibrated scales can also lead to violations of possession limits at the point of sale if they are out of calibration enough to permit a budtender to weigh and sell a quantity outside of normal, but small, margins of error.

Vehicles Used for Transport

Any transport of medical or recreational cannabis must occur via a vehicle that has a valid and current registration from the Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles. Denver in particular has experienced a tremendous explosion in its population in recent years, attracting many new cannabis consumers as well as people looking for employment in the industry.

A quick drive around town will demonstrate how many out-of-state license plates are on Colorado’s roads these days – just be diligent to ensure that when marijuana is transported, it’s done in a vehicle registered in the state, by a driver that also possesses a valid and current Colorado Driver’s License.

It is a privilege to cultivate, manufacture or sell marijuana. The value of an operational license and long-term success of the business is intimately linked with regulatory compliance. Full, holistic compliance for each license will help businesses obtain bank accounts, attract investors or partners, establish good faith with regulators and community members, as well as significantly reduce the risk of fines, administrative actions and/or possible closure of the business.

Success in this industry starts with compliance.

Steve Owens

Steve Owens

About the Author:
Steve Owens, MBA, is the CEO and Founder of Adherence Compliance and is considered a thought leader in regulatory and financial marijuana compliance. He has written extensively in the areas of operational compliance and has more than four (4) years of marijuana regulatory and financial compliance expertise. Contact 720-616-3900 or visit for more information.

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