Metrc Announces Cannabis Track-and-Trace Contract With Kentucky

Metrc is the latest development for Kentucky’s growing medical cannabis program, which is set to begin in January 2025.

The track-and-trace software Marijuana Enforcement Tracking Reporting Compliance (Metrc) is one of the most popular options for states to monitor cannabis plants from seed to sale. It currently serves a handful of regions in the U.S., including 22 states (including 2 separate contracts in Colorado), as well as the District of Columbia and Guam.

On Feb 21, Metrc announced that it has officially agreed on a new contract with the state of Kentucky. Citing Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear’s signing of Senate Bill 47 in March 2023, which is set to take effect on Jan. 1, 2025, the state is currently working on establishing its regulatory framework in anticipation of that deadline. “Tasked with developing and implementing regulations for the Kentucky Medical Cannabis Program, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services aims to ensure Kentuckians suffering from serious medical conditions have safe, affordable access to medical cannabis, achieved via a commitment to evidence-based practices, transparency, outreach and education,” Metrc explained in a press release.

Metrc CEO Michael Johnson expressed his pride in Metrc being used in Kentucky. “As Kentucky works to establish its medical cannabis market, we are thrilled to have the opportunity to launch the state’s first-ever track-and-trace program,” Johnson said. “Our team at Metrc looks forward to working alongside the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to build a regulatory framework that will create a marketplace with the strongest foundation, where patients are guaranteed safe consumption and licensees are provided an environment to thrive.”

The service records all information about legal plants, such as “origin, testing results, handling, and chain-of-custody” using an RFID tag. The information can be accessed by state regulators but is also beneficial to dispensary operators to help manage their inventory, and track sales and cultivation data.

Metrc noted that it has a “particular presence in the South” part of the U.S., including Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, West Virginia, and now Kentucky, which marks its 25th government contract. According to the Metrc website, the company states that its “Total events logged in Metrc” is currently at 5,622,330,903, and its total value of sales monitored equates to $31,230,700,515.

The initial passage of the medical cannabis bill in Kentucky in March 2023 allows patients suffering from cancer, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, epilepsy, chronic nausea, and post-traumatic stress disorder. “Kentuckians with qualified medical conditions can continue to seek relief with medical cannabis by going out of state and following all those conditions that you need to carefully read in the executive order,” Beshear said in March after passing SB-47. “All Kentuckians with qualifying medical conditions deserve a chance at a brighter, pain-free future, without ever having to turn to opioids. We know what those did to our state.”

Last October, Beshear provided an update on the state’s medical cannabis program. “We have established the Medical Cannabis Program, which is the office that is going to do this work, as part of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services,” said Beshear. “The office is preparing to communicate the implementation of this law with a new website that went live today. So, moving forward, you can get updates on the implementation through”

SB-47 also calls for the creation of the Team Kentucky Medical Cannabis Workgroup, the purpose of which is to study medical cannabis policy, and is composed of government representatives, as well as individuals from law enforcement, agricultural, and healthcare backgrounds.

One of the last updates from Beshear was in January, when he stated that the law was made to provide “relief to Kentuckians with severe medical conditions,” and should be expanded upon to include more conditions. He mentioned an additional list of conditions that should also qualify, including ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkison’s disease, Crohn’s disease, sickle cell anemia, cachexia (wasting syndrome), neuropathies, severe arthritis, hepatitis C, fibromyalgia, muscular dystrophy, Huntington’s disease, HIV, AIDS, glaucoma, and terminal illnesses. “This is a crucial set,” Beshear explained. “While the legislation referenced several qualifying conditions, it left others out.”

Medical cannabis isn’t the only focus in Kentucky, as some legislators are continuing to push for adult-use. Rep. Nima Kulkarni introduced adult-use legislation in January 2023 which would have allowed voters to approve cannabis use, possession, and home cultivation. “For decades, the failed and irrational War on Drugs has ensured that we have arrested, prosecuted and jailed millions of Americans for low level nonviolent drug offenses,” Kulkarni said at the time. “We have the chance to move forward in a way that makes sure that Kentuckains struggling with pain, with trauma, with opioid addiction, are able to access cannabis without fear of jail or a criminal record.”

In January 2024, Kulkarni introduced House Bill 72, which would legalize adult-use cannabis and allow cannabis use, possession and home cultivation, but not sales. As of Feb 23, there have been no further updates for this bill.

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