Humboldt Won’t Use ‘Seed to Sale’ for Marijuana Tracking Tests

Humboldt County is on track to launch a medical marijuana track and trace pilot program that will diverge from systems used in other states by monitoring products on a batch and lot basis.

County Agricultural Commissioner Jeff Dolf updated the Board of Supervisors at its June 28 meeting on a pilot program that will use software to track the weight, distribution and characteristics of medical marijuana products.

Dolf said that the county’s test program will start in late July. It will be the first to track marijuana by batch and lot, rather than the so-called “seed to sale” plant tagging method used in other states, he continued.

The batch and lot method is “a preferred approach toward track and trace,” said Dolf, as those involved in cultivation have indicated that seed to sale is “not practical for a large-scale existing outdoor industry.”

Tracking on a batch and lot basis is compliant with state laws that outline new medical marijuana regulation structures, Dolf added.

The first step for cultivators participating in the test program will be product declaration, where expected yields will be estimated.

Subsequent yield reports will modify the declarations. Supervisor Rex Bohn asked if the county will inspect grow sites if reported yields are less than what was reported.

If crop loss or other circumstances result in lesser yields than initially declared, “We will be able to go out there and verify, through inspection, that in fact what they’re actually producing is less than what they reported when they filled out that production declaration,” Dolf responded.

Such inspections will be done to ensure that product isn’t being diverted to the black market, he said.

A globally-active company, SICPA, is working with the county on a pro bono basis to develop the track and trace program. Julien Zanchi, the company’s product director, said the foundation of the program is the “secure stamp” affixed to all products originating in Humboldt.

Displaying a graphic of a stamp with a marijuana leaf, the county government seal and a scan code, Zanchi described the stamp as a “data carrier” that ensures compliance with state track and trace standards.

Every cultivator and manufacturer will use a Proof of Origin Platform that will be activated once a product is packaged with a stamp. Zanchi said the stamp will declare the product’s characteristics — details that will be checked as product is distributed to sources such as dispensaries.

“Our system will provide the county with a kind of reconciliation reporting mechanism,” he continued, adding that all information provided by a cultivator such as shipment by units and weight will be confirmed.

“That’s how all these steps are tying together to check the overall weight and to reconcile the weight throughout the supply chain,” Zanchi said.

A Proof of Origin Validation Platform is consumer-oriented, allowing patients and dispensaries to scan the quick response codes on product stamps using an iPhone app.

The scans will link to a public website. John Connors, SICPA program manager, displayed what the scans will reveal, including confirmation of a stamp’s authenticity and a range of information about the product.

“You can see the name of the product, a description that’s provided by the grower to promote brand awareness, the type of product, the type of packaging, who produced it, the location it was produced at, the date it was produced on, the weight, the batch number and I can also see the test results,” he said. “So it’s all the information that the consumer wants to see.”

Law enforcement and other officials will have access to more detailed and sensitive information that won’t be publically available, such as specific locations of farms.

Dolf said that so far, 11 cultivators, two distributors, three manufacturers and two dispensaries — including a dispensary based in Southern California that’s receiving Humboldt product — have agreed to participate in the pilot program.

He added that more dispensaries are expected to be involved when the pilot program starts on July 25. A formal program will be modelled after it.

Noting the prominence of the marijuana leaf icon on the proposed stamps, Bohn asked if the county government seal icon, which includes an artistic rendering of redwood trees, could be enlarged.

Connors said a sample stamp with that modification can be designed but Supervisor Estelle Fennell reminded, “It’s not tracking redwoods.”