Problem with Washington’s cannabis tracking software

Picture from Medical Jane

Story by Spencer Grey

The state of Washington mandates that all cannabis products are tracked “from seed to sale”. Officials hope that keeping tabs on cannabis from when it’s planted to when it passes into a customer’s hands will keep product from being diverted into the black market. Unfortunately, the traceability system they’re using is currently rife with bugs—and it’s putting real pressure on cannabusiness.

A new beginning

2017 was supposed to be the year Washington cannabis businesses adopted a new data system to trace all transactions. Although the new system was slated to go into operation in November, the company initially tapped by the Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) decided to withdraw from consideration in July.

MJ Freeway and their Leaf Data Systems were next in line, but with under four months to finish constructing an entire system, they were woefully unprepared to do so. Instead of launching the new data system in November, Washington cannabis businesses have been operating on a contingency plan that involves a horrifying number of spreadsheets. Many say that while this is tedious, it was working fine. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the new software.

Serious snags

The issues reported as the new software rolled out were disturbing to say the least. Many couldn’t even log in successfully, and when they did they were greeted by a system that appeared to randomly scramble orders. In some instances, the system would suddenly change which store an order was supposed to go to.

Things were rough on the buying side as well, with multiple store managers reporting they were not able to receive shipping manifests at all. And without the appropriate documentation in place, many stores are just holding out until the system is completely fixed. That means a fair amount of shops have had to do some creative rearranging to cover the empty spots on the shelves.

The Washington Sungrowers Industry Association (WSIA) penned an open letter to state regulators, including this damning testimony: “For instance information inputted into the system by users comes back out of the system incorrectly. Manifests, for example, are being outputted to completely random licensees. Data is being scrambled and is potentially putting all operators out of compliance.”

Continuing developments

According to the VP of Marketing and Communications at MJ Freeway, “There was a legitimate issue with transfers in the system that got resolved Monday.”

Growers and store managers, though, are not convinced that everything has been ironed out. Calls and emails to both the LCB and MJ Freeway were still rolling in on Monday, despite reports that things had been fixed. One owner had to wait until Tuesday morning to receive help and fix his credentials issue, after trying to get answers since the previous Thursday.

While this extremely buggy rollout has caused even more tension in an already fraught industry, it does appear that steps are being taken to get the system working correctly. Still, smaller businesses that are operating sale to sale are being hit hardest. Even one week without sales can cause serious damage to a fledgling business, and this is a troubling reminder that there are no guarantees in this industry.

Spencer Grey is a writer for Smoking Outlet, where this story first appeared.

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