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How Governments Are Using Tracking Chips on Cannabis

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Paranoiacs have long wondered whether the state is watching their every move — but, at least in legal states, they don’t have to wonder anymore. The state definitely is. And, contrary to the Orwellian nightmare it sounds like, it’s probably a good thing for supporters of legalization.

Oregon has recently paid $1.6 million to phase in Metrc, the tracking chip software already in use by legal marijuana retailers in Colorado, and similar to that used in Washington state. The chips — not unlike those the humane society uses to track dogs and cats — are intended to ensure that the legal cannabis supply is distributed legally within state lines.

Plants are tagged from the seed stage onward, using a barcode and serial number that are read by an RFID scanner. As the plant gets bigger, the tag gets moved onto a branch on the cannabis plant. Later, the identifying info is transferred to a sticker, which is slapped on the dried products and concentrates sold in legal dispensaries.

Tagging helps ensure you get quality products

In addition to keeping cannabis from being diverted to the black market, the chip technology has a more obvious benefit to consumers: it keeps track of whether the cannabis has been tested for mold, THC content, and potentially dangerous pesticides. Although the software costs the state mucho dinero, growers, processors and retailers get to use it for free.

The focus on seed-to-sale tracking makes sense, given that starting April 29, Oregon will make the big, messy transition from a system in which all recreational marijuana is still processed through the state’s medical system, to one in which growers get production licenses under the new, recreational laws.

Consumers might not relish the thought of Big Brother tracking their stash; however, in the brave new world of legal cannabis, some restrictions, clearly, apply.

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