Marijuana has always been controversial, but the tide is starting to turn in its favor. As of 2017, 29 states and the District of Columbia have some kind of allowance for medical marijuana in place, and new measures are constantly being introduced.
The problem now, for most cannabis businesses, is the restrictive rules and regulations associated with growing and distributing cannabis products. For the most part, the government seems okay with marijuana distribution (even though it’s still illegal at the federal level) so long as you rigorously adhere to the codes they’ve established. For an industry transitioning from individual, back-alley distributors to fully public and heavily watched operations, this has been a challenge.
Fortunately for the cannabis industry, technology is emerging to fill the void, and even big-name players like Microsoft are looking for a piece of the action. Recently, Microsoft partnered with KIND, a self-described “seed to sale” platform, to help government organizations oversee, manage, and potentially enforce cannabis compliance. This isn’t the first or only partnership of its kind, either—New York is currently working with a platform called Oracle much in the same way.
But what is seed to sale, and how is it changing the game for cannabis compliance?
So How Does Seed to Sale Work?
Seed to sale software comes in many different forms, depending on the app you’re using, but generally focuses on these key areas:
- Barcodes. First, most seed to sale platforms rely on some type of barcode or other signature marker that can be automatically scanned at every point in the growth and distribution process. This includes literally every step of the process, as the name suggests, from the time a seed is planted to the point where the finished product makes it into customers’ hands.
- Audit trails. One of the most important features for distributors is the availability of an audit trail, which they can produce if they’re ever questioned by governmental authorities seeking proof that they’re in compliance with the law. After logging in, they’ll be able to access records dating back indefinitely, for any product they grow or sell.
- Scales. Some seed to sale platforms have built-in digital scales, which integrate directly with the system. This allows distributors to make more precise measurements, and record those measurements for posterity.
- Strain analysis. There are thousands of different strains available, so it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference. Giving a customer the wrong strain can be problematic on several levels, and if you’re introducing a new strain, you’ll want to track it to make sure it works as intended. Seed to sale platforms allow distributors to analyze the strains they produce and sell, streamlining this segment of the industry.
- Inventory management. Inventory management is crucial, both to maintain profitability and to improve the security of the operation. If marijuana inventory ever goes missing, it’s a major problem.
- POS. Seed to sale platforms also come with a built-in point-of-sale (POS) system that allows customers to check out with a handful of simple prompts. It streamlines the checkout process, making life easier for customers, but also records and stores more data on every customer interaction. The fact that it’s integrated with inventory management and audit trails makes it even more rewarding to the seller using the platform.
- Security. Most seed to sale platforms also have a heavy emphasis on security, preventing the handling or sale of products by anyone other than authorized staff members. More advanced platforms even have biometric technology that recognizes fingerprints and other physical signatures to restrict access.
Transparency and the Future of Compliance
The hope is that increasing transparency in the industry is going to be good for everybody:
- Customers will be more comfortable knowing where their products are coming from, and more familiar with the industry.
- Customers will be better protected against damaged or mislabeled products.
- Organizations will earn a better reputation at multiple levels.
- Organizations will be able to protect themselves with better audit trails.
- Governments will have more tools to enforce compliance.
- Governments may be more likely to ease regulations once the industry is better-established.
It’s hard to say exactly how seed to sale technology could develop from here, but it’s already making a positive impact on the industry. Regardless of your personal political stance, transparency is almost universally a good thing—and seed to sale platforms are bringing it to a previously opaque industry.