Software outages still disrupting medical cannabis sales across Maryland

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Metrc, the software that Maryland uses to track cannabis purchases at dispensaries across the state, temporarily stopped working Thursday afternoon and again on Friday, leaving retailers unable to transact and patients incapable of purchasing prescribed marijuana and other cannabis products.

The Thursday outage lasted between 30 minutes and two hours, according to accounts from employees and operators of local dispensaries. Two dispensary operators also said Friday afternoon that the system was down once again, spelling the fourth day of software-related hiccups for Maryland’s cannabis industry in eight days. Metrc had also stopped working for hours at a time last Friday and Saturday.

Jennifer White, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, which regulates the state’s medical marijuana industry, confirmed the Thursday outage on Friday morning.

Metrc, a cannabis inventory-tracking platform used in numerous states that have legalized medical and recreational marijuana, keep records of cannabis inventory and patient limits for purchases. A patient in Maryland receives a maximum threshold from his or her certified doctor or provider for how much flower, concentrates and other items they can buy every 30 days.

Jackie Colaway, owner of Pure Life Wellness on E. Cross Street in Federal Hill, said the Thursday outage “prevented us from doing sales for probably a half-hour or an hour.”

“When you can’t complete sales, patients can’t get their medicine,” Colaway said.

An employee at another Baltimore-area dispensary who asked to remain anonymous said the system was “down hard” for about 45 minutes on Thursday, and then would “slowly trickle back” to allow checks of patients’ limits every five minutes or so. The problems persisted for two hours at that dispensary, the employee said, causing a line to build up and at least 40 patients to be turned away.

The dispensary lost between $5,000 and $10,000 in revenue as a result, the employee said.

Multiple dispensaries said they were unsure what caused the latest shutdowns. The issues with Metrc last Friday and Saturday were tied to a function—since suspended—that had allowed patients to log on to the system on their own to check how close they were to reaching their prescribed limits.

“It was slowing down the system,” White explained Tuesday, comparing it to how Ticketmaster can become overwhelmed with user traffic right when tickets for popular shows go on sale.

But the Thursday outage, while also tied to a technical issue, was unrelated to last week’s problems, White said. No additional information was available about the specific cause.

Metrc has a “temporary fix for it” in place now, “and they’re working on a long-term solution,” she said. “Hopefully it’ll be resolved soon. Obviously it’s problematic, but it’s something that we’re aware of and working hard to correct.”

MMCC Executive Director Joy Strand penned an apology letter published Tuesday after the first two days of glitches, writing, “we recognize the frustration this has caused and we are working very hard to make sure that this does not happen again.”

White also said on Tuesday that Metrc, owned by Florida-based Franwell, is also working on a fix to restore the option for patients to check their limits without overburdening the inventory software. Strand said in her letter that “there is no project release date” for that change.

Stephanie Memon, a patient coordinator at Culta, a dispensary on Key Highway, said Friday that the system is now back up and running like normal.

“It’s super annoying not being able to help patients,” Memon said. “When it goes down like that, there’s nothing we can do.”

This story has been updated.

Ethan McLeod
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Ethan McLeod

Senior Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan has been editing and reporting for Baltimore Fishbowl since fall of 2016. His previous stops include Fox 45, CQ Researcher and Connection Newspapers in Northern Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in Baltimore City Paper, Leafly, DCist and BmoreArt, among other outlets. He enjoys basketball, humid Mid-Atlantic summers and story tips.
Ethan McLeod
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