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Software Problem Cripples Washington’s Cannabis Industry

Marijuana Tracking System

By Gene Johnson, Associated Press

(AP) — At least a dozen marijuana samples typically show up every day at Trace Analytics, a lab in Spokane that tests products for Washington’s legal cannabis industry.

On Tuesday, a single one arrived — a symptom of the most recent problems concerning the state’s “seed-to-sale” tracking system.

Software glitches with the massive database last week began preventing businesses from transporting their products, costing them hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost sales and forcing some to furlough workers.

The issues have been a last straw for many marijuana businesses, prompting louder calls for the state to end its contract with the software vendor and to rethink the entire premise of its “traceability” program, which is intended to promote transparency in a formerly illegal industry but instead has been a source of headaches for regulators and businesses alike.

“Our small company lost four days of revenue-generating sales as a direct result of the state software system failure, and we’re just one of hundreds of companies that experienced similar results,” said Andy Brassington, chief financial officer of Evergreen Herbal, a Seattle company that makes marijuana-infused drinks and chocolates. “Those are sales you never get back. If you go to the grocery store and they’re out of milk, you don’t go back the next week and buy twice as much.”

Vicki Christophersen, executive director of the Washington CannaBusiness Association, called the software issues “crippling.”

State regulators have been working with the vendor — Denver-based MJ Freeway, the maker of Leaf Data Systems — as well as third-party software companies to address the problems, in some cases well into or through the night.

A week after a botched software update began causing the problems, the state Liquor and Cannabis Board took the unusual step of telling pot businesses they could come up with their own workarounds. The board told sellers to track data about test results and product shipping, but not to worry about strictly following traceability practices set out in state rules.

“The board recognizes there are challenges and problems associated with this software release they want to be able to alleviate in the short term,” said agency spokesman Brian Smith.

AP Photo/Morgan Smith

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