April 20, 2016

Of the many provisions the MMRSA allows, the seed-to-sale was one of the most closely followed. This system will reveal exactly where your weed came from as well as any abuses that occurred during the process.

The expansion of the cannabis industry in California has attracted dollar signs from Corporate America and is causing a mad scramble of out-of-state investors, cannabis retailers, and financially struggling municipalities who are now all racing to grab a piece of California’s face-lifted medical cannabis industry.


Historically, cannabis has been grown in back yards, basements, and warehouses. As a result, California’s most notorious greens could be grown, harvested, manufactured, and consumed without leaving much of a breadcrumb trail!  Therefore, end does not always have a clear picture of the source of the cannabis and, worse yet, whose hands it passed through beforehand. Now, with the MMRSA, caution signs may lie ahead for these business plans – check out this new requirement.

On top of creating state licensing requirements, the MMRSA requires cultivators to send all product to a licensed third-party distributor who is responsible for quality assurance. As part of this process, all cannabis must now be tracked from seed to sale.


A tracking device for cannabis plants – how does that work?!

Unique Identifier and Track and Trace Program. First, a cannabis plant gets a unique number, which it carries for the rest of its life.  Like pigeon carriers, each plant requires a zip tie attached to its base with a state ID number.  This ID number will provide the 1) state licensed cannabis source, 2) state licensed cannabis destination and 3) transaction date.

Then, when a plant is grown, processed, and ready for shipping, the Department of Food and Agriculture (DFA) will track it in a database via a shipping manifest, similar to your FEDEX tracking info, would contain the following:

  • What was shipped and how much was sent (quantity or weight)
  • An estimated time of when it was both shipped and received
  • What was received and how much was received (quantity or weight)
  • The actual time of departure and arrival (not estimated, as above)
  • Into which category the merchandise fits
  • The ID number of anyone involved in the shipping process – e.g., cultivators, transporters, distributors, and dispensary workers

Enforcement. The DFA database will be intelligent enough to flag irregularities found during the tracking process for authorities to investigate. They will evaluate anything that looks off or that reflects abuse of the system. For example, someone with a small grow license will raise suspicions if they are consistently shipping more product than someone whose license is for much larger cultivation.

Anyone found violating these provisions face civil penalties roughly double the amount of the license fee plus pertinent criminal penalties.


Public Safety – this is the government’s most important reason. The thought is that increased transparency improves safety, efficiency and compliance by squashing the black market and identifying contamination and other issues.

Further, tracking and reporting the movement of medical cannabis will create a standardized database for cannabis tracking, providing real-time information to businesses, law enforcement, regulatory agencies, and others in the industry.


The flip side, of course, to such detailed access and monitoring is the fear that Big Brother just got a hold of the cannabis industry.

For instance, DFA investigators will have access to everything in the database, including Social Security numbers and individual taxpayer identification numbers. The Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation (BMMR), which via the MMRSA oversees state MMJ regulation, will also have 24-hour access, and they can share any information they deem important with whomever they feel should know about it. If something untoward or suspicious is found, bureau inspectors will visit and inspect.

Furthermore, authorities and state agencies may stop transporters at any time and inspect the shipment they’re carrying or request documentation – in short, someone stopped is not really afforded due process. Although the confidential information in the database cannot be accessed via the Freedom of Information Act request, local authorities can access it if they are involved in investigations.

BOTTOM LINE: Let’s not be paranoid or naïve.

California needs its cannabis industry regulated. The seed-to-sale tracking system is but one of many regulations that will greatly impact the industry and help it move forward. However, just as the authorities are looking for those who will abuse the system, we also should be ever-vigilant at making sure the authorities aren’t abusing this tracking system themselves by using in nefarious ways the confidential data they have access to.

Stay tuned to Manzuri Law as this issue continues to evolve.

Disclaimer: This article has been prepared and published for informational purposes only and is not offered, nor should be construed, as legal advice.