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Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is a technology that uses electromagnetic fields to track tags attached to objects. It has come a long way since its inaugural use in World War II, where it was used in identifying whether an oncoming aircraft was a ‘friend or enemy.’ Since then, companies in different sectors have employed RFID for a variety of tasks. For example, it’s been used to streamline efficiency and track assets and inventory, as well as minimize human error.

With the continued growth of the cannabis industry, dispensaries are adopting the use of RFID for many of their operations. However, its high price tag is a stumbling block for many. Yes, RFID doesn’t come cheap. A single tag may cost you up to $40. This is based on the type of technology you put into operation and whether it’s active or passive.

The good thing is that RFID can be applied in many different areas of your cannabis business. This can make its initial high expense worth it for your dispensary. Read on to find out how you can leverage the wide-ranging impact of RFID technology in your marijuana business. 

Regulatory Compliance Through Cannabis Tracking

According to state regulations, cannabis businesses must track every plant from seed to sale. Most states use METRC as the regulatory software framework of choice. It ensures that all the persons in the cannabis supply chain stay compliant. 

For states using METRC, cultivators, manufacturers, and retailers must integrate their cannabis tracking into the state’s regulatory framework. This allows for up-to-the-minute appraisal by state regulators. METRC states enforce and supply RFID tags to act as tracking technology for operators.

In non-METRC states, cultivators, processors, and dispensaries face the same regulatory requirements. The key distinction is they’re allowed to choose their tracking technology. Unlike METRC, other regulatory software frameworks don’t supply RFID tags to operators. Thus, many of the operators choose traditional barcode systems. This could be because they don’t know about the advantages that the RFID tracking technology can bring to their business. Others shy away because of the high price tag.

So, how do the RFID tags help with cannabis tracking in relation to the state’s reporting requirements? Well, they can track individual plants across the full growth cycle and different points in the supply chain, as discussed below.

  • Growing and Cultivating: Track the stages of the plant life cycle. Thus, inspection regulators can locate each plant in a particular growth stage (seedling, vegetative, or flowering).
  • Harvest Time: Record the weight of every cut plant before trimming and evaluate yield metrics.
  • Packaging: Track the availability of inventory and build packages as per state regulations. 
  • Testing: Track the laboratory test results of each product package according to state regulations.
  • Transportation: Avail of the details used to generate transportation paperwork.
  • Tracking and Analytics: When integrated with regulatory software frameworks like METRC, the RFID technology provides the required data by the state regulators for regulatory compliance and auditing. It also evaluates the profitability of a dispensary when it comes to sales and yield.

Automated Data Collection Automated Data Collection

Operators in the cannabis industry must document everything in their daily cultivation operations. Visualize the number of cannabis plants you have in your grow room. How much time would it take your staff to manually locate and scan the barcode labels on each weed plant? 

It would take a long time. Plus, it exposes your business to the likelihood of human mistakes. Remember, a single erroneous data entry may put your business out of compliance

This is where an RFID system comes in handy. It does not need a line of sight for scanning. Plus, it can scan several tags simultaneously, counting those that are out of sight. So, an entire batch may be scanned at once while capturing important data about all the activity concerning each plant.

RFID technology accelerates the scanning process and minimizes the labour required to walk around the entire greenhouse, recording data on each plant. It also allows cultivation managers to perform internal audits within minutes. Ultimately, this enhances the overall safety and product quality of greenhouses.

Inventory Management

Are you aware that you could be on the receiving end of a hefty fine due to inventory discrepancies? An inventory discrepancy is a difference in actual inventory in comparison to dispensary records. The difference can be small or significant. 

RFID tags are attached to packaged weed products and provide automated inventory tracking and management. You can scan all shelves, pallet boxes, or an entire room to know what you have in stock. The technology also provides daily inventory data reports for consistent record-keeping. Thus, you can quickly submit your inventory records during compliance audits.

Here are some processes related to inventory that are made seamless by RFID technology:

  • Inventory check-in
  • Routine inventory counts
  • Picking and packing times
  • Shipment verification

On average, labour may account for a huge chunk of expenses in a distribution centre. Extensive RFID scanning can significantly cut down labour expenses. It also protects distributors and retailers against product theft, loss, or counterfeiting.

Inventory Management Leverage on Real-time Data for Better Business Decision-making 

RFID technology does not just help dispensary operators stay compliant. They can also leverage the real-time data captured using RFID tags to ensure their cannabis business is running efficiently, productively, and profitably. Through tonnes of highly detailed data gathered, you can optimize your marijuana yield, try out new tools and growing methods, check inventory, and make informed business decisions.

For example, you can study your inventory data and see which products are performing well. This helps you stay ahead of the game by satisfying your customers’ product preferences. 

Dispensaries can as well take advantage of the environmental sensing capabilities of RFID technology. This enables them to keep an eye on their grow rooms’ environment. As such, they can get insights on the correct lighting, humidity, and temperature needed for optimum cannabis yield.

The Bottom Line

RFID technology is worth the price. Its capability to gather data on each cannabis plant, grow room environment, inventory, and product performance is important. Ultimately, it helps your cannabis business stay compliant, nimble, and profitable in this burgeoning industry.