The importance of tracking and branding Humboldt County’s commercially-produced marijuana is being emphasized as the Board of Supervisors solicits proposals to transition a pilot program into formal operation.
The status of the county’s track and trace pilot program for medical marijuana was updated at the Jan. 3 supervisors meeting. County Agricultural Commissioner Jeff Dolf said tracking and tracing through product stamps is key to future compliance with state licensing that will go into effect next year.
It’s also critical to ensure that marijuana isn’t being diverted into the black market or used to fund criminal activities, Dolf continued. Those concerns have figured prominently in the federal government’s treatment of California’s marijuana production and Dolf emphasized the importance of continuing to address them as a new federal administration takes office.
Declaring the origin of marijuana products is another aspect of track and trace. The economic value of the Humboldt name was highlighted by Supervisor Rex Bohn.
“I’d like to make sure that just like we support grass-fed beef or anything that’s pertinent to our county and what we raise, that it’s not hijacked from us,” he said. “We’ve already seen that happen – the big boys and the big money’s showing up trying to capitalize on our name and I think we’ve got to be careful of that.”
County Counsel Jeffrey Blanck noted that state law requires that place of origin be identified for all marijuana products.
The county’s experimental track and trace program includes 11 cultivators, two distributors, three manufacturers and seven dispensaries. Dolf said that over 1,100 pounds of marijuana has been tracked through the program as of mid-December.
He also told supervisors that the county’s program focuses on batch and lot tracking versus the individual plant-tagging that’s required by state law – and considered burdensome by those involved in the industry.
Dolf said the batch and lot approach intends to “demonstrate to the State of California that batch and lot is a viable alternative to plant tagging.”
He added that product stamps will “create the Humboldt branding” in addition to defining origin and characteristics of all marijuana sold to consumers.
Supervisors were asked to authorize the release of Requests for Proposals (RFPs) or solicitation of offers from vendors to manage an official track and trace program. An international company, SICPA, is managing the pilot program at no cost to the county and will be a leading candidate.
Asked about how user-friendly the pilot program is, Scott Davies, a participant in it, vouched for SICPA’s effectiveness.
“In SICPA, we’ve had partners who are very supportive, very easy to reach and very focused on working with us to make this project work,” he said.
Davies added that “the same has not been true” with BioTrackTHC, a vendor working with the City of Arcata.
“That’s an opinion that I’ve heard echoed by others, it’s set up in a completely different way and doesn’t have that collaborative feeling – there’s not that support available,” he said.
Several cultivators who spoke during a public comment session agreed.
Dolf said he’d meet with representatives of the cities of Arcata and Eureka to discuss how to mesh and county and municipal approaches.
The track and trace program will also accommodate the Humboldt artisanal branding that’s detailed in the county’s commercial medical marijuana ordinance. Those permits will be reserved for organic, sunshine-lit grows of 3,000 square feet or less.
The pilot project began last summer and has been extended to late February. Supervisors unanimously voted to authorize Dolf to issue RFPs for the program’s official implementation.