Of all the industries to crop up around marijuana legalization, surveillance systems are among those that are growing the fastest.
You have probably taken note if you have moseyed on into a marijuana grow operation in Colorado an array of colored bar codes. Every single plant is tagged with either a blue or a yellow bar code, either stuck in the soil or tied to the stalk. Each tag has a bar code and a Radio Frequency ID chip. Then, if you take a glance around, you’ll probably notice there are security cameras watching your every move at all times. The badges worn by workers allow the company to follow them from room-to-room. Inspectors may drop by without prior notice, just to make sure the amount being produced matches the records on file with the state, which tracks it all in real time.
All of these security systems are high-tech – and costly. It’s budding into a multi-million dollar industry, and it’s one of the only reasons we’re able to safely shift this plant from the black market to a major commodity sold to the over-21 public on store shelves.
While the federal government’s refusal to budge on marijuana’s Schedule I status has been a huge thorn in the side of most within the marijuana industry, the security industry may actually benefit to some extent. That’s because with the drug outlawed by the federal government, the onus is on the state to ensure that legalization on their borders has not given a cushion to black market activity. (The reality is legalization undercuts black market sales.) But the state still has to show the federal government that it can prove at any given time where the marijuana is. It can show that there is a closed-loop with the cannabis, meaning it’s not bleeding across the borders or falling into the hands of black market traffickers.
This has given rise to the need for seed-to-sale tracking. That means there is accountability for these plants from the time the seed is put in the soil until the time it is bought by a dispensary. The state wants systems in place that can weigh the cannabis products to the milligram to know exactly how much is being moved – and where – at any given time.
Colorado was actually the very first state to require marijuana surveillance. By 2013, it went into effect with the METRC (Marijuana Enforcement Tracking Reporting and Compliance). The system is a government-facing system that gives the state’s Marijuana Enforcement Division the ability to follow millions of marijuana plants in real time as they move through the production process. The system was specifically created for Colorado’s systems and laws, but it’s now being used in Oregon, Maryland and Alaska too. It’s plausible a similar system could be adopted in California for both recreational and medical marijuana.
Other systems allow for private tracking. Seed-to-sale market tracking software is now contracted with nine other states (though it’s not officially up-and-running), while 19 states haven’t yet purchased it.
Many surveillance firms note that they are working to help take the stigma out of the industry, with compliance and technology being the primary way these marijuana businesses have to attain legitimacy and follow in the footsteps of more traditional industries.
The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.
The Business of Making a Cannabis Surveillance State, Dec. 5, 2016, By Daniel Oberhaus, Motherboard
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