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Metrc 101: How to Keep Your Dispensary Compliant

19 November 2020  |  9 min read

Metrc tag with a cannabis plant

As more states join the legal cannabis industry, many are choosing Metrc as their state’s seed-to-sale tracking system.

This is a Metrc 101 guide for dispensary owners and staff, including how Metrc works, why Metrc compliance matters, about Metrc package tags, getting started with Metrc, and how to track events in Metrc.

Disclaimer: This is not official Metrc training. See metrc.com for state-specific training requirements.

What is Metrc?

Metrc (Marijuana Enforcement Tracking Reporting Compliance) is a web-based, state-mandated software platform developed by Franwell for end-to-end tracking of the cannabis supply chain, from seed to sale. This includes the production, manufacturing, testing, distributing, and selling of cannabis products.

Metrc plant tags

According to Franwell, Metrc was designed “to create safety and transparency for consumers in the cannabis industry.” Each state has slightly different system requirements to satisfy their unique regulations. The purpose is to provide transactional and inventory data to state regulators.

Metrc is the source of truth for all tracked events, but in order to streamline dispensary operations, you’ll need an API to your Metrc-compatible dispensary software to manage your day-to-day operations.

What states use Metrc?

  • Alaska

  • California

  • Colorado

  • Louisiana

  • Maine

  • Maryland

  • Massachusetts

  • Michigan

  • Missouri

  • Montana

  • Nevada

  • Ohio

  • Oklahoma

  • Oregon

  • Washington, D.C.

Why does Metrc compliance matter?

Enforcement agencies use data inconsistencies in Metrc to detect diversion. If these red flags are severe enough, they may spur an investigation that could lead to shutting down operations and/or hefty fines.

Every licensed cannabis business in a Metrc state has specific regulatory requirements for reporting inventory and sales.

You are responsible for meeting these regulatory reporting requirements with 100% accuracy.

In California, for example, fines may equal up to 50% of your average daily sale amount, multiplied by the number of days of suspension. The average suspension time for a Tier 1 offense is 7 days. If your store transacts an average of $5,000 in revenue per day, you’re looking at a $17,500 fine, not to mention lost revenue from being closed.

But fines and closures only happen when dispensaries aren’t diligent in their cannabis compliance. Metrc has actually been a useful tool to maintain compliance in the cannabis industry and it has a proven track record of success.

Understanding Metrc tags

Metrc tracks your plants and products with Radio Identification Tags or RFID tags. The tags are not reusable, so every package and plant has its own unique identifier.

There are two types of Metrc tags: Plant and Package.

Metrc plant tags

Metrc plant tags have the facility name, license number, application identifier (whether for medical or recreational use), tag order date, and unique plant identification number.

Metrc medical marijuana plant tag
Metrc recreational marijuana plant tag


Recreational marijuana plant tags are blue; medical marijuana plant tags are yellow.

Metrc package tags

Metrc package tags are the physical sticker on every package. Instead of using a plant number, they are each given a 24-digit package number. Every package has only one type of product in it.

Metrc tag cost

Metrc tags cost anywhere from $.25 to $.45 a tag. For a facility that has 50,000 plants, this equals over $22,000 just for plant tags and that’s not including the tags needed for packaging. If you have a larger operation your costs could be anywhere from $5,400 to $30,000 in plant tags alone.

Tags are purchased directly from Franwell. They aren’t cheap, so be sure to properly attach them to plants and packages to avoid waste. Also, make sure you don’t run out of tags or you won’t be able to package or transfer any new material.

Lifecycle of the Metrc Plant Tag

Metrc compliance chart
  1. Cuttings, seedlings, or clones are grouped and identified as an immature batch and receive a Metrc plant tag from cultivators.
  2. An immature plant becomes a vegging plant when the plant is larger than what the state regulations mandated (in some states it’s 8” in others it’s 24”).
  3. The plant tag follows a specific plant through the flowering process.
  4. The plant is mature enough to be grouped into a harvest batch.
  5. From there, you can package your cannabis product and attach Metrc package tags.
  6. A product may have its Metrc tag changed multiple times before the product reaches a dispensing facility, but all changes must be reflected to state regulators through Metrc.

Getting started with Metrc

If you are in a new legal state using Metrc, or have a new dispensary opening in a Metrc state, here are the basic steps of getting started with Metrc:

  • All employees need to register with Metrc and complete training.
  • Make sure your Metrc API key and license are integrated with your POS system. To find your API key, log into Metrc and look in the top right corner under “API keys.”
  • Purchase your plant and/or package tags from Metrc.
  • Log into Metrc and start setting up products and confirming tag assignments.
  • Log into your point of sale and start receiving your newly tagged inventory

Once you're all set up, you'll need to ensure ongoing compliance between your physical, POS, and Metrc inventories (keep reading for more on this!). Your cannabis business could literally be on the line, so make sure you take advantage of industry resources aiming to help you stay compliant.

Compliance Checklist for First-Time Dispensary Owners

How to track events in Metrc

Metrc is the recordkeeper of all activities occurring in your facility. Metrc records employees, all plants, changes in rooms or growth phases, inventory transfers, activities within a package tag, waste records, user activities, date and time of activities, sales, processing activities, and repackaging.

Everything that is recorded in Metrc cannot be deleted. If you make a mistake, you cannot erase it, but you can make adjustments and corrections.

Most of these activities can be found in the package tag drop-down in your Metrc account.

Metrc dropdown

Be care about red-flag activities within Metrc that could lead to an investigation or audit from state regulators, such as:

  • Having inventory packages with quantities that don’t match your physical inventory.
  • Processing sales from packages with no quantities.
  • Missing days of sales.
  • Making improper adjustments in your Metrc recordkeeper.

Reporting sales to Metrc

Now that you understand what Metrc is and why it’s imperative to use it correctly, the question becomes:

How do I avoid fines and keep my dispensary compliant?

There are three different ways that a medical or adult-use cannabis dispensary can send daily compliance reports from their point of sale to Metrc:

1. Report to Metrc manually

With this method, data is exported from your cannabis point of sale software via a CSV file, configured to correct formatting, and then uploaded manually to Metrc.

Pro: This method gives you control over when and how compliance information is being uploaded to the state.

Con: This sales upload method is the most time and labor-intensive and is more susceptible to human error, which could put you at risk.

2. Report to Metrc automatically after each transaction

Through an API, information is either pushed or pulled from one system to the other. Some cannabis-specific point-of-sale systems push to Metrc via an automatic API push after each transaction is completed.

Some states require reporting to Metrc immediately after each sale. But, for states that don’t require this method, we don’t recommend it.

Pro: Automatic pushes have the appearance of being foolproof since it’s automatic. Be wary of this, though. If Metrc goes down or the API stops working, you may be out of compliance without realizing it.

Con: Human error and mistakes are bound to happen, and automated API pushes to Metrc mean mistakes are reported to the state before you have a chance to correct them. Also if one piece of the technology stops working, you will need to figure out where the error occurred and manually report anything that didn’t get automatically pushed.

3. Report to Metrc via controlled API push

Unless your state requires real-time Metrc reporting, we recommend using a software solution with a controlled API push, meaning you send your sales data to Metrc when you want (though most states require daily reporting).

benefits of manually push to Metrc

Pro: Controlled pushes give you the ease and convenience of an automatic API integration with the added safeguard of being able to double-check data before reporting to regulators.

Flowhub’s integration with Metrc gives you the ability to push sales to Metrc only when you’re ready. If record-keeping errors occur throughout the day, you will have the chance to identify and reconcile them before sending your closing report.

Con: This method does add another step at the end of the day, and has compliance repercussions if forgotten. However, it’s a quick process and ensures you are compliant at the end of each day, which can’t be guaranteed with automatic pushes.

Metrc reliability

Sometimes Metrc is disrupted, slow, or goes down altogether. Even in this situation, it's still your responsibility to report to the state each day.

This is a big part of the reason we recommend waiting until the end of the day to report to Metrc (if your state doesn’t require immediate reporting). Maintaining full control over your Metrc API integration and when/how you report to Metrc is key for the functionality of your dispensary and it ends up paying off in the long run.

Read this next!

Metrc Reporting: Cannabis Point of Sale Best Practices

Conclusion

Metrc compliance takes time and effort, but it is required. Your entire staff must fully commit to ensure you're following all regulatory guidelines of your state.

To see how Flowhub makes Metrc compliance easier and faster, watch a demo.

Editor's note: This post was originally published in Oct. 2017 and updated with 2020 information.
Nick Headshot

Nick Rudy

Nick joined Flowhub in January 2020 with a passion for cultivating a safe, legal cannabis community and supporting the industry as it grows. Nick advocates for the retail cannabis community through content and social media efforts.

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