Posted by Alexander Glueckler on

“Full Metrc integration” claims by many software providers must be clarified when speaking about cannabis operations. While systems may be integrated to the fullest extent Metrc allows, the Application Programming Interface (API) itself falls short of expectations that many are used to with other software integrations. Most claims of open APIs provide a level of two-way communication between systems, so users only need to work in a singular software environment; the information is updated automatically. Metrc’s API is a little different in key areas, which cannabis operators must understand in order to maximize system effectiveness and state reporting compliance.

The Metrics On Metrc

Metrc is a software application developed by Franwell and used by numerous states to track, monitor, analyze, and ensure compliance with individual states’ complex regulations governing the growth, distribution, processing, and sale of cannabis products.

The system provides an API for licensed cannabis companies holding different licenses: Cultivation, Processing, Testing, or Retail (as applicable by state). However, these API connections are not created equal. The degree of access and automation can vary.

The API connection for retailers offers more bi-directional communication, but operators cultivating, processing, and distributing cannabis will find certain limits to their API communication with the state tracking system when managing their outbound and inbound manifest data (more on this later).

What Level Of Metrc Integration Exists Now?

To operate efficiently in the current environment, there are business processes that software integrators can facilitate. Most operational activities related to inventory movements, consumption, and outputs can be sent to Metrc. Users can also receive lab test results into their systems from Metrc. Users can also create products, locations, units of measure, product categories, reason codes, and strains (for cultivation). However, when it comes time to send outbound manifest data, or receive inbound manifest data, cannabis businesses still need to manually go into Metrc.

The intentional chokepoint around manifest data, designed by Metrc, forces licensed operators to catch and reconcile errors prior to products going off-site (or coming on-site from other licensed operators), and prevents incorrect versions of manifest data from entering the Metrc database.

While this ensures data hygiene for Metrc, it means license holders must still use the Metrc user interface to send and receive this information. With outbound manifest data, certain state versions allow for integrators’ use of manifest templates. Originally created for users to set default data on manifests, Validated Metrc Integrators can utilize this function to send data to the Metrc system, but users must still go into Metrc to convert the template to a manifest and release it. Similarly, software integrations cannot trigger the receipt of inbound manifest data. Licensed cannabis operators must go into the Metrc system, receive the manifest data and then this data can be pulled from Metrc by the integration.

Internal Controls Remain Paramount

What does this current, limited level of integration mean for those cultivating, processing, and distributing cannabis? It means that some amount of manual data entry is required in Metrc. Having well-defined business processes and striving for operational excellence prior to implementing any business management software is a proven recipe for sustainable success in manufacturing and distribution.

Ultimately, the onus of accurate records falls on the license holder. Their systems must be able to track inventory internally and provide the necessary documentation in the event Metrc goes off-line or shows a variance.

For Ben Marchi-Young, ERP Program Manager at industry leader Curaleaf, ensuring an initial level of compliance internally is paramount:

“While Metrc is in the process of improving, we want to make sure our system helps us remain compliant regardless of whether Metrc is present or not. Our ERP ensures we can identify variances to fix immediately. We are at a point in this industry where rapid growth will require us to continually seek operational efficiency; this includes how we stay compliant and grow in shifting regulatory requirements.” ~Ben Marchi-Young, ERP Program Manager at Curaleaf

Selecting a Partner

It’s important to partner with a software integrator that stays engaged in the solution and the industry. Good integrators know what Metrc’s API capabilities offer and they understand how to adapt its systems to maximize efficiency. Operators rely on internal enterprise systems to do their jobs; consequently, their chosen software must be robust enough to evolve with the industry changes in compliance and regulatory requirements.

For those seeking a software partner, there are a couple things to keep in mind:

  1. Full Metrc integration in cannabis operations must be clarifiedFirst, ensure they are Validated Metrc Integrators. Metrc frequently updates its confirmed integrators on its state sites (e.g., www.metrc.com/[state name]). True Validated Metrc Integrators are certified by Metrc and can communicate with Metrc’s state system.
  2. Second, ask how the software partner plans to integrate. Ask specifics and have them walk through detailed scenarios; make sure the solution fits both the immediate and future needs of the business. Claiming “full Metrc integration” isn’t enough. Expect them to understand Metrc’s API ability and what they are doing to work around any limitations.
  3. Ensure they understand how they can integrate and interact with the system. As stated in Metrc’s API Bulletin 037 (4/24/19), third-party vendors can only interact with Metrc via its API. This means TPVs are not provided access to a user interface, nor can they use a license-holder’s user interface without putting their cannabis license at risk.
  4. Lastly, ensure the software partner fullyunderstands the connections to be made between the business and the areas that need visibility and automation most. The workarounds developed and implemented by software integrators, such as customized reporting to aid in manual entry, are well worth the time and investment.

The Takeaway

Overall, software integration saves time, reduces data entry errors, and helps promote efficiency — but it cannot take the place of well-defined business processes and workflows. Selecting a flexible, powerful cannabis ERP supported by a proven, Metrc Validated Integrator that keeps its software current, and takes advantage of the tools and functionality within the system will help maintain compliance and drive continuous performance improvement.

If you would like to learn more about Silver Leaf CBC and how our ERP solution integrates with Metrc to maximize efficiency, contact us today.