If you’re in the legal cannabis industry, chances are you’ve heard of Metrc. This software platform tracks the movement of recreational and medicinal cannabis products and is actually mandatory for use in 21 states. Despite how widespread Metrc is, navigating the platform can be challenging.
Understanding Metrc in the Cannabis Industry
Metrc, short for Marijuana Enforcement Tracking Reporting & Compliance, is a track and trace software for the cannabis industry. It tracks plants from seed to sale to ensure product safety and regulatory compliance of a specific plant through all growth phases and processing stages.
In the simplest terms, Metrc is a cloud-based data platform that tracks cannabis plants and products from the time they’re planted to the time they’re sold to the consumer. This helps cannabis businesses including growers, manufacturers, retailers, and regulators track cannabis products to ensure they’re being sold within legal markets to of-age consumers.
While Metrc is the mandatory compliance tracker in many states, each state has its own tracking and reporting requirements, which means each state’s Metrc system will look slightly different. Metrc uses reports they call manifests to track the movement of cannabis products.
The Role of a Metrc Manifest in the Cannabis Supply Chain
Metrc is mandatory in over half of states with legal cannabis programs and it’s undeniably popular with state regulators. But why?
With seed-to-sale tracking, regulators know where a specific plant is and what’s happening to it at every stage of the supply chain. This level of tracking disincentivizes people in the legal industry from moving product over to the illicit industry to boost revenue, whether that’s the illicit market in their state or out of state. With Metrc, regulators can more easily track that cannabis isn’t being moved over state lines or sold to minors.
Metrc uses unique identifier numbers (UIDs) for growing plants and package tags, and radio frequency identification (RFID) to create Metrc tags in the barcodes of finished products. A Metrc tag makes tracking a particular plant and its products easy with a package tag. If there is a recall and state regulators have to get involved, they know everything about a product and where it came from.
The goal of Metrc is to increase safety and transparency for cannabis consumers. The platform creates a trace system for cannabis products from the time they bud to when they’re consumed. If there’s something wrong with a cannabis beverage, regulators need to understand where the extract in that beverage came from, who manufactured it, and where the flower was grown.
Metrc is not a tool for tracking sales or managing cannabis business’s entire inventory. It acts as a checkpoint at every stage of movement along the supply chain to reduce any discrepancies in product safety.
Components of a Metrc Manifest
The Metrc system creates manifests when a Metrc-tracked product is moved between businesses. There are two main types of manifests: business-to-business (B2B) delivery and consumer delivery.
B2B: Transfer Metrc Manifest
A B2B delivery uses a transfer metric, which creates a digital paper trail for a cannabis plant, an extract, or a finished product. A B2B delivery involves any licensed cannabis business within the supply chain, starting at the cultivation facility and ending at the dispensary.
This means that in states where Metrc is mandatory, a transfer manifest is created when a cannabis product moves from cultivation to a manufacturing facility, testing lab, distribution center, and anywhere in between. It contains information on the plant or product, including the strain type, quantity of product, packaging, and relevant business information for both parties involved in the transfer. Should anything go wrong at some point, the transfer manifest can help trace back to where an issue may have occurred.
Consumer: Sales Delivery Manifest
The other type of manifest that Metrc uses is a sales delivery manifest, and this takes over at the point where the customer places an order at a dispensary. The sales delivery manifest is used to document the movements of products to the customer when they’re being delivered.
This manifest has different requirements; it must be drafted with an estimated departure and arrival time, as well as the driver’s route. When the delivery is made, the manifest must be updated with the actual times and route. This manifest may also require the dispensary’s license number, as well as the driver’s information and license.
It’s important to note that a sales delivery manifest is a different Metrc manifest than in-store sales. A sale taking place within the dispensary does not require a Metrc manifest, while a sales delivery manifest shows that product was taken off-site and delivered to a customer. This is one of the reasons Metrc cannot track sales data or manage marijuana inventory.
Third-Party Software Solutions for Metrc Compliance
How you use Metrc depends on what kind of business you have, but Metrc integration with other software platforms makes using its system a lot easier. Retailers can integrate Metrc with your POS system. The Metrc API (application programming interface) connects automatically with a multitude of POS systems, making it easy to use.
If you don’t use a POS system that integrates with Metrc, you can set up the systems yourself. This is a much longer solution, but if you’re in a state with mandated Metrc reporting, spending the time is not optional to remain in compliance. Unfortunately, Metrc is more optimized for retailers than it is for cultivation, processing, and manufacturing businesses.
A few third-party software providers that Metrc does integrate with are:
- Leaflink, a wholesale cannabis platform
- Canix, an ERP software designed for cannabis businesses
- BioTrack, a seed-to-sale inventory management and point-of-sale software
- Treez, a technology company that specializes in enterprise cloud commerce including POS, retail analytics, and cashless payments.
- MJ Freeway, a seed-to-sale software company
Challenges and Solutions for Managing Metrc Manifests in Cannabis Businesses
One of the most common challenges for managing Metrc manifests is the data entry. Manifests require a lot of information about your business and the people handling marijuana products. Metrc organizes this data for you, but you must be mindful of inputting it correctly and regularly.
Another challenge with using Metrc is that dispensaries must use Metrc-compliant tags and labels. RFID tags must be ordered through Metrc and labels have to be custom-printed by Metrc in order to properly label and integrate with their tracking system. This is another expense for business owners and one more task to juggle. Custom-printed labels and RFID tags are costly, not refundable, and if there’s any error in printing, you still have to go through Metrc.
Since Metrc is a cloud-based system, you must be connected to the internet to use it. If you have an internet outage, data will not be reported to Metrc. Each state has its own regulation for lack of connectivity, but you have a limited window to get the information in the system once you have connection again.
However compliance in cannabis is not optional, and being found out of compliance can be more costly than any track-and-trace or POS system, so it’s well worth the time you spend.
Future of Metrc Manifests and Technology in the Cannabis Industry
Metrc certainly isn’t the only piece of software taking the cannabis industry by storm. Cannabis tech has been growing at a rapid pace throughout 2023, and you can expect that to continue in 2024. Evolving cannabis tech is shaping the industry just as much as businesses and people are. With software like Metrc, you can more easily monitor changes to industry regulations, track data points, and ensure compliance is a cornerstone of your business success.
How can you maximize the impact of cannabis tech in your business in 2024? From compliance to insurance, taking advantage of cannabis tech helps increase your bottom line and set you up for success in the coming months.
Protecting your cannabis company can seem confusing; however, we’re a full-service insurance brokerage working with carriers worldwide to offer you the best coverage possible. We’re here to help! Please reach out to us today by emailing [email protected] or calling 646-854-1093 for a customized letter of commitment or learning more about your cannabis insurance options.