Medical marijuana seed-to-sale tracking system already worrying advocates -- but should it?
In August, the Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division awarded a $1.5 million contract to Franwell Inc. to institute a seed-to-sale marijuana tracking method for Colorado MMJ enterprises using Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology. And while the system isn't expected to be in place until early 2012, at least one advocate is raising alarm about expense and the possible creation of new crimes. Should operators be worried?
According to a Franwell release about the Colorado contract, "RFID tracking of marijuana will capture information on the approved 6 plants allowed per patient, each stage of plant growth, distribution and final sale. Whether a patient requires smokeable product or marijuana infused products (MIP) such as ice cream or salsa, RFID will track that patient's product and allowance in accordance with state regulations."
Language like this prompts objections from the Cannabis Therapy Institute's Laura Kriho on a number of fronts. "RFID technology is going to be another expense for the dispensaries," she says. "And these tags could be $3 apiece. They send out a signal saying what's what, but the tags are going to have to be constantly reprogrammed, and it's going to be a huge administrative expense -- and it could be another crime. If you're caught with cannabis from a dispensary that doesn't correspond to the RFID chip in your medicine bottle, that's another way for people to go to jail."
The Franwell logo.
How does MMED spokeswoman Julie Postlethwait respond to these assertions? Corresponding via e-mail, she explains that "early on we determined that use of Radio Frequency Identification tags is the most effective and cost efficient way to track this product. Franwell was the successful bidder in a highly competitive process and we look forward to working with them to build a system that meets our regulatory needs and is easy to use for the industry."
Regarding Kriho's concern about $3 tags, Postlethwait offers reassurances, if not specifics. "We are only in the early planning stages of the system," she writes, "but costs to the industry will be limited as much as possible."
She also dismisses the idea that a dispensary might be criminally charged for accidentally hanging the wrong tag on the wrong plant, or some other similarly benign error. "Industry members will not face criminal charges for making a mistake," she stresses. "However, if investigation brought evidence to light that illegal activity had taken place, the MMED will pursue criminal and administrative sanctions."
If statements like this last one bother Jake Browne, marketing director for Colorado Dispensary Services, he doesn't show it -- and he sees Kriho's criticism as premature.