Radio frequency identification (RFID) technology isn’t new. In fact, its origins date back to 1945—an RFID predecessor was actually invented by Léon Theremin (the inventor of the theremin) as an espionage device. Nowadays, RFID tech is utilized to prevent theft or identify products, among other purposes. In the cannabis industry, RFID tags are utilized by the Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) in order to track and monitor cannabis growth, transportation, and sales. Let’s take an in-depth look at the MED, their tracking system (Marijuana Enforcement Tracking Reporting Compliance, or METRC), and METRC’s RFID technology, as well as the process of tracking from plant birth until the final sale of a cannabis product.
The Marijuana Enforcement Division
The MED is the authority on cannabis regulation enforcement. Their mission, per their site, is to “responsibly administer and enforce medical and retail marijuana laws and regulation in a fair and equitable manner by implementing efficient and effective fiscal management policies, operable enforcement strategies and collaborative partnerships with stakeholders that establish public trust and value in the agency.” In short, the MED oversees cannabis operations and enforces state cannabis regulation laws. In collaboration with a company called Franwell, the MED has built out a system that tracks individual cannabis operations, called METRC (as we mentioned above). So, what is METRC?
METRC is, as their site states, a “regulatory compliance system.” In short, it is a tracking system that compiles data surrounding marijuana growth and sales. Through the utilization of RFID tags and software, METRC captures data which the MED monitors. Now let’s take a closer look at RFID technology…
What Is RFID Technology?
RFID technology relies on radio waves to remotely identify objects. An RFID reader projects and receives radio signals. Meanwhile RFID tags (which can be attached to products) contain data that identifies the tag. Thus, an RFID reader can project a radio signal, communicate with an RFID tag, and gain data from that tag. RFID tags can be tiny; cannabis RFID tags fit on a product label.
RFID technology makes sense for cannabis inventory tracking. Growers are protective of their plants, and RFID technology ensures that plants can be tracked with little human interaction. Cannabis plants are delicate and fickle, and the growing process is far from simple; it’s best to keep auditors from tainting the plants or interrupting growing operations. RFID tags are also reliable and cheap to produce. Cannabis industry RFID tags are also outfitted with other identification information, including the type of marijuana being grown or sold (medicinal or recreational), the ID number of the plant, product, or batch of immature plants, the order date, as well as the name and license number of the facility housing the cannabis plant or product. You can learn more about METRC’s RFID tags here.
Seed to Sale Tracking Phases
RFID tags are used throughout the lifecycle of a marijuana plant, thus the phrase “seed-to-sale tracking.” Under current regulation, cannabis plants and products must receive an RFID tag to make identification and auditing simple. Plants are tagged throughout their lives in the following manner:
- Plants first receive RFID tags as seedlings, clones, or cuttings. During this identification phase, plants can be tagged in a batch, and the plants are considered “immature.”
- Later, as a plant grows, it is considered a “vegging plant.” Vegging plants—which are plants that measure more than 8 inches in any dimension, or plants planted in containers that are larger than 2 inches—must have individual RFID tags, under MED regulations.
- These RFID tags must be updated whenever a “vegging plant” becomes a “flowering plant,” or a plant that is going through a growing light cycle of 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness.
- Then, plants may be identified again when they are cut in order to obtain a wet weight prior to trimming.
- Marijuana buds and shake may then be collected and packaged. These packages must also have an RFID.
- As these packages are transferred, they must be identified once more.
- Or, if cannabis is being infused into a new product, a new RFID tag will be necessary for the new product.
- Cannabis products can be transferred from business to business, so long as they are identified at each juncture.
- Finally, cannabis products can be packaged for retail (requiring a final identification), and then sold.
It’s a thorough process, but a process that is intended to track end-to-end cannabis growth, transportation, and sales.
The Importance of Compliance
RFID tagging is designed to improve compliance auditing and reporting. Without proper tagging, a cannabis business simply isn’t compliant. That can result in the revocation of licensing, fines, and/or legal action. To ensure that your business stays above board, it’s imperative that RFID guidelines are followed to a T. If you’re curious about compliance, you can speak to a consultant here at Evolutionz. We also provide free compliance news notifications.