How are California officials watching over the nation’s largest legal pot market? Sixteen months after the start of legal sales of recreational marijuana, a system designed to track marijuana plants from planting to purchase, to maintain the purity of legal sales, has attracted few retail outlets and manufacturers, the Associated Press reports. The result: For now, the tracking system relies mainly on paper records, which experts say opens the door to criminal trafficking.
Without a digital crumb trail in place, “there are so many areas where things can go wrong,” said Patrick Vo, CEO of BioTrackTHC, which provides seed-to-sale cannabis tracking in eight states, including New York and Illinois. “Things can be intentionally altered.” As of last month, just nine retail outlets were entering data into the network established under an estimated $60 million state contract, even though 627 shops are licensed to sell pot in California. The rate of participation is similarly slim for other sectors in the emerging industry. Only 93 of more than 1,000 licensed manufacturing companies producing extracts, oils and other products were documenting their activities in the network in April. And of the nearly 4,000 licensed growers, only about 7 percent, or 254, are using the high-tech system, according to a review of state data. Why so few? To meet a tight deadline leading to legal sales, state regulators first issued only temporary cannabis licenses, and it wasn’t feasible to train those licensees to use the tracking system, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Food and Agriculture said. Annual licensees are gradually coming online, but even once they are phased in and on the tracking system, California’s illegal pot industry is expected to continue to thrive.