A spooky jack-o-lantern haunts this digital collage of a commercially grown cannabis plant.

steve p2008

Washington’s Impending Cannabis ‘Armageddon:’ A Seed-to-Sale Halloween Scare

The Washington state legal cannabis market has had its share of hiccups since its creation. Now, at the close of 2017, a new problem around the state’s seed-to-sale tracking software has materialized just in time (literally) for Halloween.

Earlier this year, the Washington State Liquor Control Board (LCB) announced they would not be renewing the contract of their seed-to-sale tracking software vendor, BioTrack THC. When Franwell, the state’s first choice to replace BioTrack, backed out of the contract, the LCB chose MJ Freeway instead to manage Washington’s seed-to-sale data. MJ Freeway, who also administers tracking databases in Nevada and Pennsylvania, and the LCB agreed on October 1 as the contracted date to have the new system up and running.

However, MJ Freeway and the LCB recently announced that they would not meet the deadline. Instead of the 31st, they now say the new traceability software — known as Leaf Data Systems — won’t be online until January 1, 2018.

To bridge the gap, the LCB has provided a two-pronged contingency plan they say will allow businesses to continue tracking their products. First, vendors who rely on the state’s seed-to-sale tracking system will now enter tracking information on Excel spreadsheets, which will be entered into the new system once Leaf Data Systems is live — about two months later. Second, businesses that use 3rd-party tracking software are advised to consult software vendors for offline data entry concerns, while businesses who use a commercial version of a seed-to-sale compliance software can continue to using their software as usual to track compliance.

Under the LCB’s proposed spreadsheet plan, businesses would report the same data as before using a 16-digit numbering system for new products. Transfers and destruction events must be submitted daily, using an LCB online form. Tax reports are still due monthly. The WSLCB assures businesses they can operate as normal during the contingency plan, but many aren’t so sure the transition will go smoothly, including BioTrack THC’s CEO Patrick Vo.

In an open letter to Washington state I-502 businesses, Mr. Vo assured the industry that BioTrack is doing everything they can to make the transition as painless as possible, while simultaneously shedding a little light on the LCB’s actions. In the letter, Vo says the LCB only discussed an extension of their contract on October 9th, after it was clear the new system wouldn’t be on time. Although the LCB offered to double their contracted price, BioTrack’s CEO wrote they are unable to accept the extension due to security concerns and aren’t 100% sure if they can extend the contract once it elapses at midnight on Halloween.

The concerns center around a possible data breach related to the new database, and, despite assurances the breach has been fixed from both the LCB and the Washington State Office of Cyber Security, Mr. Vo says without actual proof the problem is fixed, he won’t put his business and livelihood in jeopardy by extending the contract. In the letter, he suggests the industry work together to fix the problem and suggested hopefully that BioTrack may have a solution by November 1 to avoid what he characterized as “industry Armageddon.”

Editors note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the decision to delay the new seed-to-sale system was made independently by MJ Freeway, while it was a joint decision between the company and LCB, and did not mention the fact that cannabis companies using a commercial seed-to-sale software suite could continue to use these solutions during the limbo period. These updates were made on 10/31 at 9:55 am PST.

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