County Pursues Tracking and Tracing Medical Marijuana Production

The county is supporting an experimental program for tracking and tracing medical marijuana, eyeing an ultimate goal of protecting the Humboldt brand, providing detailed information to consumers and ensuring that local products comply with state requirements.

At the March 1 Board of Supervisors meeting, Jeff Dolf, the county’s agricultural commissioner, was given the go-ahead to evaluate and accept a proposal on a pilot program to track and trace medical marijuana.

The proposal will be developed by SICPA Security LLC, a global company whose product evaluation work includes California’s taxation of tobacco products. Alexander Fellmann, the company’s business manager, said Humboldt is unique in that it will be monitoring the activities of a marijuana industry that’s already well-established.

Tracking and tracing has the potential to facilitate taxation, give consumers detailed information and prove that Humboldt product is actually from here. Fellmann said a “key component” of that is “proof of origin stamps” affixed to products that are offered to consumers.

The stamp will be a “highly secure, anti-counterfeit device,” he continued, and its design will be “specific to Humboldt County” and geared to “how you want to convey the Humboldt brand.”

Development of a pilot project will be done by July, implemented through November and then evaluated. SICPA is offering to carry out the program at no cost to the county.

The program will track and trace products from five different growing sites in the county, with the participants chosen from recently-launched registration and permit application lists.

Supervisor Estelle Fennell said an effective track and trace program serves government needs as well as those of the industry and its consumers, as the stamps “would assure both the quality and the security of the products” and allow access to detailed information on them.

In addition to establishing proof of origin, tracking and tracing would allow monitoring of supply chains for administrating state and local laws. For consumers, proof of origin stamps offer a variety of product information.

Dolf described how a smartphone would be used to scan a quick response (QR) code. He told supervisors that “a person with a smartphone can actually read that and pull information off of that stamp that will give them access to whatever you want to let them see,” such as testing results, the area of the county that the marijuana product was grown in and the producer’s name.

During a public comment period Luke Bruner, the business manager of Garberville’s Wonderland Nursery said a tracking and tracing program would prevent the introduction of “toxic product” into the supply chain, and Nathan Whittington of the California Growers Association said it will encourage growers to participate in regulation.

Supervisors voted to authorize Dolf to enter into an agreement with SICPA on a pilot program and choose its participants.