Metrc: What Dispensary Owners Need to Know About Cannabis Compliance

by Aly Payne,

Learn how inventory management and supply chain logistics are the foundation of painless dispensary compliance.


Compliance is a fact of daily life for cannabis dispensary owners across the country. Seed-to-sale tracking is a fundamental part of what makes legal cannabis possible. It keeps cannabis consumers off the black market and keeps cannabis products out of minors’ hands. 

Metrc is the state-mandated seed-to-sale tracking system that many dispensary owners have to report to daily. Dispensary owners and their employees need to be deeply familiar with this software in order to ensure consistent, error-free reporting.

How Does Metrc Work?


Metrc is a software application that acts as the interface between cannabis dispensaries and regulatory authorities. It offers a unified solution for tracking and reporting the movement of cannabis through the state economy, and accommodates different reporting requirements that vary by state.

The fundamental premise is simple to understand. Every legally cultivated cannabis plant in the state gets a unique identifier (UID) number, tracked with a special tag. That tag follows the plant as it moves through the state’s cannabis supply chain, eventually ending up printed on the packages of the products made using that particular plant.

Every transfer that occurs is recorded using that UID number. This way, state regulators can quickly trace the movement of any single plant or product in the entire state. If a cannabis cultivator, processor, or distributor is funneling product to the black market, it will show up as a discrepancy in this record.

Similarly, if a cannabis-based vape cartridge makes someone ill, state authorities will be able to conduct a thorough investigation to find out why. Metrc is the tool that makes this possible.

Two Types of UIDs


There are two types of unique identifiers in the Metrc system:

  • Plant Tags. These tags identify individual plants and qualify their current status in the growth cycle. This is subdivided into five sections: seed, immature plant, vegetative, flowering, and harvested.
  • Package Tags. These tags identify cannabis products and by-products (referred to collectively as “items”) destined for sale or transfer. Every contains items and has its own UID package tag.


The system does not allow users to assign UIDs directly to items – only packages. A wholesale quantity of dry, smokable marijuana may be considered an item and placed into a package for sale or transfer. A single cannabis-infused candy bar is an item, but would probably be grouped with a larger quantity of similar products as a package before distribution to a dispensary.

What Other Data Does Metrc Collect?


Most Metrc use cases rely on UID numbers, but that is not the only data the system collects. It also relies on qualifying data that describe:

  • Product Market Categories, or whether the end-product is intended for the recreational or the medical market.
  • Tag Order Dates, which describe when the original tags were ordered.
  • License Numbers, which correspond to every licensed facility that handled the plant at every stage in its lifecycle.
  • Facility Names, which make it easy to build an audit trail showing how any particular plant made its way from the original cultivator to the consumer who purchased it in a cannabis product.


Metrc also keeps records of compliance-related events. This includes employee activities, cultivation room changes and transfers, waste records, and repackaging. All of these events are hardcoded and cannot be deleted. The system does allow users to revise mistakes to a limited degree, though.

Metrc records almost everything that happens during the cultivation, processing, and distribution of cannabis as an event. This allows it to determine when discrepancies have occurred. 

For instance, a dispensary’s incoming inventory may not match their cultivator’s outgoing stock. This would trigger a red flag and draw regulatory attention towards both the dispensary and the cultivator. If the discrepancy remains unreconciled, state authorities may announce an audit and surprise inspection, or simply start revoking cannabis licenses and forcing non-compliant businesses to shut down.

What Metrc Doesn’t Do


Franwell designed Metrc to fulfill a specific set of conditions outlined by lawmakers. It was never intended to act as an inventory management tool, nor does it provide the kind of features and functionalities one would expect from such a tool.

Although it does include a database and some reporting features, these are entirely compliance-oriented. Metrc does not have any built-in solutions for automated inventory management or point-of-sale processing. It does not automatically help resolve compliance discrepancies on its own, and it does not offer any analysis or insight into sales or distribution trends.

This means that Metrc users must spend time manually inputting the UID numbers and other data into the system, which takes time and draws budtender attention away from customers and other value-generating tasks. As with all manual data entry processes, errors can creep in.

Fortunately, Metrc can integrate with software solutions that automate this process. Purpose-built cannabis point-of-sale systems that integrate with Metrc can scan the UID code directly off of product packaging and enter the corresponding data directly into Metrc’s reporting system. 

This reduces the amount of time employees have to spend on compliance, and significantly reduces the risk of a compliance-related error popping up. It also allows users to take advantage of some of the benefits associated with gathering customer transaction data.

Enabling On-Demand Compliance with Metrc and Greenbits


Metrc is a tool designed to help states establish an accountable legal cannabis industry. It is not a solution designed to enable dispensaries to make the most of their transaction data, or to streamline sales processes. This is where third-party integration with a compliant point-of-sale solution like Greenbits comes in.

Greenbits allows dispensaries to automate data entry directly at the point-of-sale, eliminating the need for dispensary employees to log into Metrc and input information about every single transaction as it occurs. This frees up budtender time, allowing them to focus on what they do best – interacting with customers and guiding them towards the best cannabis experience possible.