Legal cannabis regulators in America's Pacific Northwest reported significant issues with state-approved seed-to-sale tracking systems in both Oregon and Washington this week, emphasizing the legal cannabis industry's extended infancy, even in states with years of recreational sales experience.
According to Marijuana Business Daily, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC), the agency responsible for regulating Beaver State bud, released an audit of the state's cannabis tracking system this week, detailing continued issues with overproduction, under-reporting, and huge amounts of human error.
In the Oregon regulators' report, OLCC officials bemoan inconsistencies in cannabis industry self-reporting of cultivation, sale, and product weight, as well as "poor or insufficient data quality in the cannabis tracking system, Metric."
Across Oregon's northern border, cannabis officials in Washington ran into their own tracking system issues this week, reporting a hack in the state's legal weed distribution system, MJ Freeway. The hack may have exposed cannabis transfer and manifest data to the still-unnamed intruders.
"A computer vulnerability was exploited on Saturday, allowing unauthorized access to the traceability system," Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Control officials wrote in a press release about the security breach. "There are indications an intruder downloaded a copy of the traceability database and took action that caused issues with inventory transfers for some users."
Washington regulators are confident that no personal information from the state's legal weed industry was breached in the hack and said that they will continue to work with MJ Freeway to ensure supply chain security. Still, they urged distributors, cultivators, and retailers to review their travel manifests and make any additional safety precautions that may be necessary.
In Oregon, officials proposed fixes for the state's tracking system by increasing regulatory oversight, including hiring and training new OLCC inspectors and implementing more concrete standards for cannabis industry investigations.
Looking at both instances of cannabis tracking woe as similar symptoms of a still-burgeoning industry, it becomes clear that legal weed will need more than a few years to iron out a flawless mass market. After all, Rome wasn't built in a day, and with regulations and restrictions unlike any other legal industry, growing pains should be expected to come in all shapes and sizes.
To solve those issues without implementing daily law enforcement checks at canna-businesses across the legal weed world, technologically-focused cannabis advocates have suggested implementing blockchain tracking systems instead of the private seed-to-sale tracking provided by companies like Metric and MJ Freeway.
Based on an open ledger system that records every single type of transaction in real-time, blockchain proponents argue that the tech behind Bitcoin could inject a much needed dose of transparency to the industry, eliminating the ability to transfer bud from the legal market to the black market.
But while blockchain could prevent cultivators from passing only part of their weed to distributors and stop dispensaries from selling customers more bud than their state allows, it would also create an open database of cannabis industry operators and consumers — a significant security concern for an industry still openly breaking federal law.
For now, Oregon regulators will try their hardest to plug the state's tracking system holes with increased manpower, while Washington State officials continue to put their trust in their current system, no matter the flaws.
Follow Zach Harris on Twitter