Colorado marijuana regulators introduced a new high-tech tracking system this week that will allow every legally grown plant or produced marijuana product to be tracked in the state through the entire growth cycle.
Called the Marijuana Inventory Tracking System, each plant or product will have a small tag that can be scanned by a scanner gun using radio-frequency identification, or RIFD, technology, similar to that used by a grocery store clerk.
"As more states decriminalize marijuana use, it is imperative that systems be in place to ensure that growers and dispensaries follow proper distribution protocols and comply with state and federal regulations while honoring the ballot measures," said Julie Postlethwait, communications officer with the Marijuana Enforcement Division, the Department of Revenue's regulatory agency for the marijuana industry in the state, in a statement.
The tags contain the facility's retail or medical marijuana license number, a product serial number and a "secure ID" chip inside the tag -- all of which are trackable through an inventory database that both the state and the marijuana business can access.
According to the MITS website, the system will also create transport manifests so proprietors and state regulators will know if a package of marijuana goes missing while in transit.
"We have the ability within the system to actually freeze everything up the chain to where this was produced," said Ron Kammerzell, senior director of enforcement for the state Department of Revenue, to 7News.
What it doesn't do is track anything beyond point of sale -- so once the marijuana is purchased by a consumer, the tracking stops.
Officials believe that this "seed-to-sale" tracking system is one of the best tools they have to keep black market marijuana out of the supply chain in the state.
Although Colorado's marijuana businesses are eager to comply with the new regulations, the state is getting some negative feedback for the cost of the system, especially the tags which can only be purchased from Franwell -- the developer of the tracking system -- and cannot be reused.
"It's incredibly expensive to comply with this," Mike Elliott, executive director of the Medical Marijuana Industry Group, told The Denver Post. "Businesses just want to be able to go out and find the best deals they can on these tags."
Postlethwait told the newspaper the state was able to drive tag costs down and is willing to consider outside vendors in the future. For now, state regulators just want to get the system up and running and, most importantly, working.
Colorado's first recreational marijuana shops are expected to open Jan. 1, 2014. In preparation for the historic day, the City of Denver has launched a website highlighting the rules for marijuana users and sellers.