Washington’s official traceability license with BioTrack is over, but its replacement, MJ Freeway, won’t go-live until January 2018

Written by Ammon J. Ford, Attorney at Gleam Law, PLLC. 

Washington’s cannabis industry was thrown for a loop when the state’s Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) announced it would be getting rid of the previously established seed-to-sale tracking system, BioTrackTHC, in exchange for a new one, MJ Freeway Leaf Data.

The principal concern is that there is no system to fill the gap between the end of BioTrack’s state contract, which ended on October 31st, and the January 1st, 2018 go-live date of the new tracking system.

Tracking cannabis from seed to sale is not only a vital part of everyday legal cannabis business operations, it is required by federal law. In 2013, then-Attorney General James M. Cole released what is now referred to as the “Cole Memo”. This memo helped clarify expectations for the federal government, state governments, and law enforcement agencies when it comes to enforcing federal cannabis laws in states that voted to legalize cannabis.
The Cole Memo specifically says if legal cannabis states want to be left alone by the Feds, they must implement a strict regulatory framework equipped with strict tracking systems. These systems must be able to monitor the growth, distribution, and final sale of all legal cannabis in the state. Tracking systems are implemented as a means of providing transparency and ensuring there is no diversion of legal cannabis into the black market.

The LCB has downplayed the two month gap period, stating in an interview with Leafly that they would be gathering the exact same amount of data, just less often. During the gap between BioTrack’s contract ending and MJ Freeway’s system going live, the LCB has proposed using manual spreadsheet tracking. This means business owners and managers must manually track everything from “plant, harvest, inventory, conversion, sample, laboratory testing, transportation/chain-of-custody, and sales data,” according to an open letter by the CEO of BioTrackTHC Patrick Vo.

For many cannabis business owners, manual tracking is a logistical nightmare that could severely increase their workload and leaves their tracking open to the risk of human error.

So what should cannabis business owners do during this gap period if they want to avoid manual tracking

Vo’s letter assures all current users of BioTrack’s business system for inventory management and point-of-sale that the system will generate automatic spreadsheets to submit to the WSLCB to help reduce the impact on individual businesses.

Further, Vo provided an additional option for those using different third-party commercial tracking systems. Vo stated,

“One common denominator for every third-party commercial software system in Washington is that it successfully integrates with our API. Because BioTrack owns its traceability technology and licenses it to state governments for use, we can create a private-sector version of our traceability system that would mirror the current traceability system.”

This private-sector option would be an exact replica of the current traceability system, with a web-interface for licensees (previously provided for free through the state) and it would “have the current version of the Washington API so every current business seed-to-sale provider will already be integrated with it.”

According to Vo, the private-sector option would have nearly, if not completely, identical functionality as their previous system implemented by the state. This option will be available during the entirety of the gap period and can even be extended if the implementation of MJ Freeway is further delayed. This option will be offered free for 30 days to all state licensees, after which the subscription to the service will cost $50 per licensee per month.

If you are a cannabis business owner in Washington state worried about manual tracking, you can reach out to directly to BioTrackTHC for information on moving forward with the private-sector option.
For updates from the LCB on the new tracking system, visit their website here.