Budding tech troubles hamper medical marijuana dispensaries

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It was a popular tool while it lasted, but the system that automatically tracked medical marijuana use for dispensaries and consumers in real time has been temporarily turned off.

“The system was just overwhelmed,” said Jennifer White, spokeswoman for the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission.

To insure the consumers remain below their legal allotments, dispensaries now must use a time-consuming, multi-step process, outlined in a recent memo from the provider of the technology, METRC, and the commission. They must check clients IDs and log into the commission system to check how much the client can buy based on their limits and then log into METRC to record purchases.

The system was designed to automatically check limits and log purchases at part of the sale transaction.

The state’s registered consumers also can’t use the METRC system — short for Marijuana Enforcement Tracking Regulation and Compliance — to remotely check their own monthly allotments.

White said it wasn’t clear when the dispensaries could again tap the system, though she said the capability would be restored. That may not be the case for consumers, however.

With each click, the system was checking thousands of products at the 57 dispensaries licensed so far in the state, each with different concentrations deducted at different levels from a consumer’s allotments, as recommended by a physician. This calculation, multiplied by more than 17,000 registered consumers, had at times slowed the system to a crawl. White said there isn’t an easy fix.

“METRC is doing some upgrades to system and disabling several functions,” White said.

METRC, operated by Florida-based Franwell, provides similar services in nearly a dozen states that allow marijuana sales from California to Massachusetts.

Dispensaries have been reporting system troubles on and off for weeks.

The spotty service had sometimes prevented sales, so shutting down access and developing a workaround was actually preferable to Justin Somers, president of Curaleaf in Reisterstown. He also applauded the state for seeking the real-time feature he said was not available in other states.

The manual process, however, has not been without issues. The dispensary is spending extra time communicating with and aiding customers and extra resources for checks.

“It’s been a challenge,” he said. “Hopefully this is a brief issue.”

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