The legal cannabis industry is now a compliance industry. With regulation comes licensing, audits, and extensive data management for a transparent chain of custody in the supply chain. This is a major shift for legacy operators, who didn’t previously keep records of their sales transactaions and cultivation data. For this article, Trym and RMCC (Rocky Mountain Cannabis Consulting) came together to express our unique viewpoints and shed light on METRC compliance for cannabis cultivators.
Before we begin, we’d like to introduce ourselves. Trym is cannabis farm management software custom-built for commercial cultivators. Trym helps improve efficiency and consistency through precise environmental monitoring, customized task management, and plant analytics. Trym is currently integrated with Metrc in California and Oregon, and can be used alongside compliance software in other states.
RMCC builds compliance operations infrastructure and transparency by bridging the gap between compliance, how it applies to your operation, and how the technology solutions are involved with everyday operations. We are a Compliance Operations Training organization who supports the entire cannabis supply chain. We focus on METRC and BioTrack states to assist in building sustainable compliant workflows with on-site training, e-learning, and asset development.
“Achieving compliance in your licensed cannabis operation is a mindset, not a destination,” says BriAnne Ramsay, CEO of Rocky Mountain Cannabis Consulting. “From the hundreds of operations my team and I have seen, the common theme to success is the leadership must instill proactive, compliant workflows within the organization’s culture to withstand the ever changing regulations.”
While finding the right technology solution(s) for your operation is a great first step to proactive compliance operations, strategic operational planning is crucial for the long-term success of any cannabis business. This requires a cross-functional team with excellent communication skills and operational alignment with an established infrastructure.
The operational infrastructure should include:
- Standard Operating Procedures pertaining to METRC and third party technology solution
- Ongoing learning with consistent assessments
- Internal compliance infrastructure to maintain record retention, inventory control and facility compliance
- An efficient, METRC compliant technology solution or software stack.
“We can’t think of another booming industry that has a unicorn software solution solving every organizational need. Our industry requires niche solutions – something custom for this unique industry and the different business types within it. There is no one-size-fits-all in any other industry – why would cannabis be any different?” said BriAnne Ramsay, CEO of RMCC
What is a software stack?
A software stack is a group of programs that work in tandem to produce a desired result or achieve a common goal. Any business, whether in the cannabis space or not, is going to use a number of software systems to manage its operations. Specialized data sets, when combined together in a meaningful way are going to be more powerful than an all-in-one solution that grazes over and does a mediocre job.
We know that the cannabis industry is one of the most challenging and volatile industries to operate in. However, with support and guidance, we can show other cannabis operators the right way to build a booming industry. Maybe one that’s even better than what has come before.
Vertical integration is not more efficient, it’s more complex
As experienced cannabis operators, we all know that in this industry, things are a little different than in other traditional industries.. The complexities of running a vertically integrated business are high.
One cannabis business alone has numerous headaches to address. Businesses that develop workflows to unify the various departments (operations, finance, management, compliance) are performing important foundational work that will support business growth in the future. However, if you stack additional businesses in the vertical supply-chain, (ie cultivation, manufacturing, distribution and retail) then you’re talking about multiple, uniquely challenging business requirements and layers of complexity
A vertically integrated business is in practice a number of separate and distinct businesses operating under one umbrella
Deciding on the right software mix is an important operational decision executives and management need to make. More specifically, what is the best solution(s) to ensure efficiency and compliance in each unique business unit?
While there are software companies who claim to do it all, we have seen operators find their all-in-one-solution come up short too many times. Issues quickly arise around compliance, traceability, operations management and labeling for packaging. After many months of costly implementation, operators realize that these software systems don’t perform as well as they expected.
‘A Jack of all Trades is a Master of None’
Most software providers catering to the cannabis space market their all-encompassing solution as the answer to a vertically integrated business’s software needs. In practice, building a fully functioning and compliant product is no easy feat. One software that addresses all the intricate needs of each license type doesn’t actually exist.
This is particularly true for compliance solutions. Each state’s regulations and reporting requirements differ from the next. There is one common constant in the industry: regulations will continue to change. We do not see the changes slowing down anytime soon.
At Trym, we treat each state’s METRC integration as a new software product, with its own discovery, development and quality assurance process. It’s important to understand the regulatory nuances of each state and build a product around them that is both compliant and provides a seamless user experience. Unlike the all-encompassing solutions out there, we’re dedicated to creating the best in class solution for commercial growers.
“Be cautious of ‘all-in-one’ solutions that serve multiple cannabis states. In our experience, they have left customers non-compliant.” said BriAnne Ramsay, CEO of RMCC
Anyone who passes the METRC Vendor API test can be “METRC Certified”
A cannabis ERP solution might be enticing for a cannabis company seeking simplicity in its operation. In most cases, companies find the opposite. Not only are they costly and daunting to implement, but they’re also not intuitive or user-friendly for the less tech-savvy employees. The ones actually using the software daily. Adoption and usability of the software is extremely important.
The question all operators should be asking themselves is ‘What software is truly METRC compliant and has built efficient, automated workflows for your specific business type?’ This gap in the market is where RMCC shortcuts the technical and operational challenges of interpreting the METRC API and how the automation applies to physical workflows across the supply chain.
Compliance Challenges for Growers
As we’ve mentioned, each license type comes with its own unique set of compliance headaches. Cultivation requirements are more burdensome, in some ways, than other businesses in the supply chain. Specifically, there are manual tag applications that happen several times in a plant’s life as well as METRC entries each time a plant moves or it’s growth phase changes. Harvesting as well requires several interactions and manual data tracking without a compliant technology solution such as Trym.
The truth is that regulators don’t have direct cultivation experience. To produce regulations that serve growers well, they need to collaborate with and learn from the experts, the growers! Policy makers don’t know what they don’t know. It’s crucial that growers get involved in policy making. It’s understandable that the governing agency would miss some of the ‘givens’ that are obvious to well-seasoned growers.
We’ve seen many regulatory changes made with the participation of local growers. It’s a two-way communication and they are looking to us as much as we are looking to them for guidance. So get out there in front of your regulators, by writing, calling and attending in-person meetings to voice your suggestions. It may not seem like it, but they are open to collaboration.
One Example: the Vegetative Stage
There are many instances where the regulators failed to mimic a cultivator’s journey in their policy and reporting requirements. One example, in California, is that clones, seedlings and vegetative plants are not tracked or designated in their distinct stages. Rather, they are all grouped together as ‘immature plants’.
Below is a clip from a webinar we did all about Metrc in California. If you’d like to view the whole webinar, which also features presentations by Distru and Meadow, check it out here.
Tracking the inventory and movement of clones and teenagers as separate plant types is important for growers. We treat clones differently than we do vegetative plants, both with environmental conditions and tasks in caring for the plants (feeding, watering, spraying).
This type of data organization poses a challenge to easily identify a seed, clone, or vegetative plant in METRC. Tracking these different stages must be done manually or with a software system, like Trym.
Getting more granular data out of your operation can reveal where improvements can be made and what the key drivers are behind your most successful harvests.
Trym tracks inputs that are not in METRC for more comprehensive visibility and oversight
Trym provides growers visibility into their operations & output, along with operational tools like root zone conditions and environmental monitoring, task management, and plant analytics. Smarter business decisions are within reach when you have the data at your fingertips. Growers can now optimize their operations and grow their competitive edge like never before.
Schedule an intro call with our team to learn how Trym can power up your entire cultivation operation.