To the beat of electronic dance music, men and women inside a slate-gray building harvested marijuana plants festooned with radio-frequency identification tags. In another room, an employee entered the tag numbers into a government database.
The cannabis tracking system used by Avitas, a marijuana company with a production facility in Salem, is the backbone of Oregon’s regulatory system to ensure businesses with marijuana licenses obey the rules and don’t divert their product into the black market.
A huge amount of data is entered into the system by Oregon’s 1,800 licensees every day, a reality that means the state has a tremendous amount of information at its fingertips. But the reality also is the state doesn’t have the manpower to monitor all that data.
The marijuana regulatory agency — the Oregon Liquor Control Commission — has only one marijuana data analyst, and not enough inspectors to randomly inspect grow sites and processing facilities to ensure the accuracy of the data they are providing.
A recent state audit concluded the lack of trained inspectors and “reliability issues” with self-reported data hurt the commission’s monitoring of Oregon’s adult-use marijuana program.
“I think this is a fundamentally sound system,” the commission’s executive director, Steve Marks, told The Associated Press. But he conceded: “It’s not being used to its capabilities. We don’t have the workforce there.”
Oregon’s experience is reflective of one of the significant challenges in the expanding legal U.S. marijuana industry: the ability of governments to keep track of their own markets.
Washington, which with Colorado became the first state to broadly legalize marijuana in 2012, recently switched tracking contractors after it outgrew the first system, and quickly ran into major technical problems. Colorado has reported no significant technical issues but has only five people on the data analysis staff to help with