Oregon medical growers struggling with new system
July 1, 2018
That is the date all OMMP grow sites with more than 12 plants and/or three or more patients were required to switch from their monthly reporting of growth phase changes and transfers under Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and begin reporting into the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) cannabis tracking system (CTS) known as METRC.
Since Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) growers are still under OHA, to make the switch they must first create a grow site administrator (GSA) through the OHA and designate one person to be responsible for all reporting requirements mandated by statute and rule. Briefly, METRC requires all growth phase change to be tracked by attaching RFID (Radio Frequency ID) tags on all plants and all inventory, with a unique identifier tag (bar coded label). All growth activity or transfers must be recorded at the end of each day. The tags and labels must be purchased through METRC.
The OHA originally estimated, during the 2017 legislative session when SB 1057 was being considered, that some 4,000 grow sites would fall under the reporting criteria. After recent drops in patient and grower numbers, they revised that estimate down to roughly 2,000 grow sites earlier this year. To date only about 700 of those grow sites have submitted their applications.
Update from OHA:
1. There are a total of 1,271 grow sites that need to use the Cannabis Tracking system.
2. Of those, 697 grow sites that have set up grow site administrators (GSA) and they all were sent over electronically through OLCC.
3. All of the locations have been sent the credentialing email from Metrc (this is step one).
4. Of the 697, 134 have not “verified” their information with Metrc. They are being remind of the requirement.
5. Information of those that are active in Metrc will come later.
6. There are 574 grow sites that have not set up the GSA as required with us.
Once an application is received and approved by the OHA, it is then sent to OLCC where they begin the accreditation process. In the past, license applicants were required to take a four hour training seminar, take and pass a test, and then wait for the OLCC to do a background check and issue a user ID number before the grower (licensee) could activate the account and begin their reporting.
The state set up entry for OMMP growers transitioning into METRC on a fast track and required none of the training or testing. If a grower didn’t attend any of the recent seminars presented by the OHA and OLCC, or watch the training modules on YouTube, the grower is flying by the seat of their pants and the learning curve will be steep. These training seminars did not serve as a solid basis for OMMP growers using the new system and reports coming back from the field are revealing a lot of frustrated users.
This was further complicated by the short 30-day window the OHA allowed for OMMP growers to create a GSA and meet the July 1 deadline for reporting into METRC. Public outreach and training seminars to help OMMP growers were developed, understanding this was created quickly, but attendance was poor. In the end, the May 31 GSA deadline set by OHA came and went leaving many OMMP growers playing catch-up. The OLCC followed the OHA around the state with their own training and tried to give the OMMP growers some insight into METRC, but this training extended well into June giving some growers little chance of getting METRC active by July 1.
The trouble is, if a grow site is not fully reporting into METRC by JULY 1, 2018, they are not legally allowed to transfer any product to patients, or to an OLCC wholesaler, which is the entry point for OMMP medicine into the OLCC market. We are still trying to determine if this also applies to the remaining dispensaries and processors. OLCC rules also require a grower to create a shipping manifest for any medicine leaving the grow site and being transferred to the patient.
In addition, If a grow site wants to transfer any or all of the 20#’s they are allowed to transfer into the OLCC market, it must be approved by OLCC and they must provide proof that the water they are using to produce medicine for patients comes from a legal source. This may include water rights assigned to the property, a domestic well, a municipal water source or receipt of delivery by a legal water delivery service.
To make matters worse, especially for the remaining OHA dispensaries and processors, none of the nomenclature in METRC matches what they were used to using in the OHA reporting system and requires them to learn all new nomenclature just to enter inventory. Also, when a grower has a veg plant in inventory they must first enter it as an immature plant–including its strain–and then re-enter a growth change when an immature plant has become a veg plant.
If you need help and are fortunate enough to get through to IT support, they are likely to be unable to help you and will tell you they haven’t been trained on how to support medical growers yet and that they will get back to you after they check with their supervisor. This could take an hour, or a day.
All OMMP growers are also under a 10-day time frame to get inventory entered once their plant and item tags have been received. For some this will be a frustrating experience. Once they get up to speed it will be easier but the learning curve is proving to be steep.
These are issues all OLCC licensees have already struggled through but they were required to be fully in METRC before a license is even issued. OMMP growers, on the other hand, with ongoing patient transfers, are struggling to comprehend a system under which they must be fully compliant before any medicine can be legally transferred to a patient. A transfer that a grower is not likely to refuse, and medicine, by the way, that the patient owns.
The OHA issued bulletins requiring all GSA applications to be received by May 31, but will continue to accept GSA applications. They will notify those grow sites that are not yet compliant that they must either: sign up for METRC, reduce to 12 plants or less, or just grow four adult use plants instead of remaining with OHA, or OLCC, at all. They will continue to send any applications received and approved to the OLCC but these grow sites will not be able to legally transfer to patients until they are fully compliant in the new system.
Lastly, if you are growing at a grow site that is exempt from reporting into METRC, you may still have to continue reporting into the OHA monthly online reporting system known as OMMOS. (Oregon Medical Marijuana Online System)
If you are a patient growing for yourself at a grow site that is not where you live, you must continue to report to OHA. If you are a patient growing for another patient, you must report on the six plants you are growing for the patient. This includes if you are growing for your spouse and your spouse is growing for you. You must both report on the six plants you are growing for each other.
In the end, if the majority of grow sites providing for multiple patients are met with additional requirements for transferring along with more fees and costs for entering METRC decide not to enter into the OLCC system at all, patients will again lose growers. This means that more patients will be forced into dispensaries they cannot afford for product that will not meet their needs.
The number of patients no longer designating a grower now stands at about 16,000 and may increase by another 3,000 to 4,000 patients if this happens. It’s a decrease that will have a corresponding drop in revenue–from grower and patient fees–that the medical program depends on for funding. A decrease the program can ill-afford.
It is unfortunate that something the state wanted so badly–all cannabis cultivation above 12 plants tracked in the same system–did not manage this transition better. Patients will lose.
– Anthony Taylor is the President of Compassionate Oregon and has unique access and insights into Oregon’s lawmaking process, much of which takes place in the Capitol building, near the corners of Church and State streets in Salem. Everything shared here are personal opinions and not in his official capacity as President of Compassionate Oregon or the Oregon Cannabis Commission, on which Anthony now serves.
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