County Government to Expand Medical Marijuana Track and Trace Program

Humboldt County's pilot program tested the use of QR codes on track-and-trace labels to allow consumers, vendors and regulators to follow products through the supply chain.

Brand protection and supply chain security are important topics for any healthcare manufacturer. Though national DSCSA requirements do not apply to medical marijuana producers, track and trace regulations on the state level are coming. New laws in California require a track and trace system that monitors all cannabis products by January 1, 2018.

With a long-held reputation for growing some of the highest quality cannabis in the nation, Humboldt County producers in Northern California's "Emerald Triangle" certainly have an image and product to protect.

The Humboldt County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office, in partnership with SICPA Security LLC, launched its Medical Cannabis Track & Trace pilot program in March 2016 to track medical marijuana from growth to dispensary. Set to conclude in February 2017, the pilot features 35 registered grow sites and participation from 10 cultivators (outdoor, indoor, and mixed), four manufacturers and wholesalers, and five dispensaries, according to Lost Coast Outpost, a Humboldt-based news site.

The program is designed to allow regulators, consumers and law enforcement to follow medical marijuana through each step of the supply chain, and was featured on a recent segment of PBS NewsHour.

Producers apply labels with QR codes to medical marijuana packages, which allow patients to access information about the product’s lab testing results and origin, as well as information about the growers, on the county-run website humboldtorigin.org.

On January 3, 2017, the County Board of Supervisors supported the continuation of the program and authorized a request for proposals from track and trace vendors. The program will be available to all applicants and permit holders in compliance with the county’s Medical Marijuana Land Use Ordinance.

Offering peace of mind to patients and brand protection for growers, there is a lot of demand for an expanded track and trace program among the industry.

A December 2016 report from county agricultural commissioner Jeff M. Dolf notes, “The Commissioner’s Office has received a significant number of requests from producers, cooperatives, and grower representatives requesting to participate in the pilot project because of the ‘proof of origin’ branding offered by the program.”

Small-scale growers who meet certain criteria will also be able to label their products “artisanal” with an official stamp issued by the County. With many fearing that large corporations will seize the cannabis industry and put small operations out of business, the county is showing that there are still ways for smaller brands to differentiate themselves to consumers.

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