8 Steps to Get ready for

Are you getting ready to start using METRC? Maybe your state just legalized cannabis, or maybe regulators have decided to implement the tracking software later in the game. Either way, you need to get on board to stay compliant and keep your license. There’s no sandbox or practice mode when you start using METRC, so getting it set up correctly from the beginning is going to make you and your employee’s work life so much easier.

Let’s start with the basics…

What is METRC?

So, what is METRC? METRC is a cloud-based compliance software that establishes a traceable chain of custody for all cannabis plants and products from seed to sale. It gives your state regulators a digital view of where your products are located and what part of the production cycle they are in. If you’re using METRC correctly, every move each little bud makes should be traceable throughout the product life cycle.

How Does METRC Work?

How does it work? METRC uses a combination of advanced software, a secure database, and radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology to track all your cannabis from immature plants to harvest, processing to testing, transporting, and finally the sale to the patient or consumer. It’s your job to enter information into the database correctly and apply the correct RFID tags to each product for traceability.

The Product Life Cycle

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Why do we have to use METRC? The first reason – Public health and safety. Regulators and public health and safety departments need to be able to track products. Think about food recalls – when lettuce is contaminated and potentially dangerous to the public, we know exactly which brand to pull off the shelves. We need the same insights into the cannabis supply chain, too. Nobody wants to smoke moldy flower or eat a contaminated brownie. They also want to make sure all cannabis is accounted for and not being diverted to the black market, or worse, into the hands of children. Tracking the life of the product helps to prevent illness and makes sure the public is safe. 

There’s another reason regulators have us use METRC – taxes. In many states, cannabis plants and products are taxed at various points of the product life cycle. Say there’s a tax on the weight of a harvest. Both you and your state regulators need to know how much that harvest weighed so you know you’re paying the appropriate amount of taxes to the government.

“Great – where do I start?”

Glad you asked – Let’s dive in.

Good Data In, Good Data Out!

Get ready for a lot of data entry. You and your team are going to have to enter every physical movement, every added pesticide, every product alteration… everything into METRC. METRC is the digital mirror of what’s going on in real time in your facility. Enter the information correctly and timely, and you’ll be glad you did. You’ll be able to see where everything in your facility is located, who last touched it, and its entire history. Regulators will love you for doing it right the first time and every time after. 

Measure Twice, Cut Once.

The “guessing game” doesn’t tend to work out very well, and can create a lot of confusion, drama, and data cleanup in the long run.

If the state can see that you haven’t been using METRC correctly, you’re basically volunteering for a physical facility audit. It is imperative to ensure that you do not do anything to the system you are not 100% confident about, unless directed by a regulatory authority and have those directions documented in writing and recorded on camera. 

Compliance, Compliance, Compliance

Get familiar with what data your state is looking for and how to enter to ensure you’re not missing any details in your reporting. Information like, “How many lbs. can be in a package of flower for transport?” or “How many clones can be in an immature batch of plants?” will vary from state to state, and METRC won’t stop you from entering a non-compliant amount. You also may want to read your regulations to understand why they want the information you’re providing – it can be helpful to know the purpose of a rule so you can show your true intent to follow it. License owners and managers should all sign up for METRC training for each facility type before getting started.

Getting to 100% Confidence

It’s definitely a lot to learn – new vernacular, regulations, and software all at the same time. Here’s the good news – there are so many resources to help you! Indica Consulting’s METRC experts, integrated compliance software, employee training programs from the Cannabis Industry Institute… skip the guesswork, reach out to those resources, and make sure you know how to enter the data correctly. Cut corners and you could be looking at errors that lead to fines, fees, loss of license, and in some cases, even jail time.

The Details

Getting Set Up with METRC

1. Designate a METRC Admin (or two)

While owners absolutely need to understand what’s going on in METRC, there still needs to be an employee or two onsite who are in the trenches every day. An inventory specialist or somebody who has previous experience with METRC is ideal. The system changes often based on consumer feedback, so continued education through a consulting company is advised.

2. Order Your Tags: Plant vs. Product

Plant tags are waterproof RFID tags that are affixed to all living, viable plants of a certain size after the immature phase (this size varies by state) all the way through the growth cycle until they are harvested and grouped into a “harvest batch.”

Plant Tag (Source: Flowhub)

Package tags are used as transitory tags. This means that anytime the product changes form it is assigned a new tag, drawing an invisible line in the system from one package to the next so we can see the evolution of the product throughout its life cycle. Package tags also are used as the shipping label for the final product, allowing the RFID technology to track the location of the physical product. All cannabis flower or products must be associated with a package tag representing the production batch.

3. Take a detailed inventory (and we mean detailed)

Get organized – we emphasize it enough. Inventory is the most important thing you can do to prepare for METRC. Having a solid, accurate inventory of the products in your facility will allow you to easily transfer your data from live counts to digital initial batches.

4. The Admin Dropdown menu – Employees

You’ve already determined who is going to your Admin, and they should already be (or get ready to become) very familiar with the options on this dropdown. 

First, you’ll want to add the employees who are going to be using METRC and determine what permissions you’ll want them to be able to access. Maybe they just need to view the list of inventory and not have the ability to adjust it – make sure you’ve set them up correctly. 

Even if the state requires their own METRC training and provides resources like YouTube videos, you still probably want to look for outside consultants and training programs to get the deep-dive knowledge you need.

5. The Admin Dropdown menu – Strains

STRAINS MUST BE CREATED BEFORE YOU CAN CREATE ITEMS. “Strains” will be available in all license types but are mainly used by cultivators. If you’re a processor, creating strains allows you to make strain specific items for your flower-based products.

6. The Admin Dropdown menu – Items

Items are essentially your product skus. Each product defined by its unique characteristics, like flavor, will be its own item in METRC. For example, if you have five gummy flavors, you will need five different gummy items differentiated by flavor. If each flavor comes in 2 potencies, you’ll be entering 10 items into METRC. Each combination of unique characteristics must be its own item.

For example…

Blue Rasp. Gummy 50mg

Blue Rasp. Gummy 25mg

Sour Apple Gummy 50mg

Sour Apple Gummy 25mg

Lemon Drop Gummy 10mg

Lemon Drop Gummy 25mg

Watermelon Gummy 100mg

Watermelon Gummy 50mg

Cherry Gummy 25mg

Cherry Gummy 50mg

Blue Rasp. Gummy 50mg

Blue Rasp. Gummy 25mg

Sour Apple Gummy 50mg

Sour Apple Gummy 25mg

Lemon Drop Gummy 10mg

Lemon Drop Gummy 25mg

Watermelon Gummy 100mg

Watermelon Gummy 50mg

Cherry Gummy 25mg

Cherry Gummy 50mg

7. The Admin Dropdown menu – Locations

A location in a cultivation facility is how you organize plants you’d like to group together for bulk actions. For example, if I want to add the same nutrient to all your OG Kush veg plants at once instead of having to manually enter it into each plant, you would assign all OG kush veg plants to the same location. They can be set up by room, row, light, etc.

For processors, dispensaries, and other license types, locations are a way for you to track where your inventory is physically located. Keep this information up to date at all times.

8. Integrate Your Technology

Does your management system integrate with METRC? Your Inventory system? Point of Sale software? Do you have barcode and/or RFID scanners? Get up to date. Many companies use separate inventory management or similar software so they have a second set of data to compare to METRC, while other cannabis operators choose to use software and hardware that integrate directly into the system. Integrations and hardware can make your life a whole lot easier. Make sure to order and update any hardware or supporting platforms you want to use with METRC before you go live. At minimum, we recommend a barcode scanner for a much easier time entering tag numbers in METRC. If you have a large inventory, RFID scanners can come in really handy, too.

Excited, nervous, or just overwhelmed? Don’t forget – There are resources out there to help you get started. Be sure to get yourself and your staff trained, your tags ordered, and contact Indica Consulting’s METRC experts to help set you up on the right foot and ahead of schedule. We’re also here to help get you set up with technology solutions, standard operating procedures, and ongoing training to make sure both the transition to METRC and the daily ongoing processes are all smooth and organized.

Need help with METRC?


Carsey Merchant, MPH

Founder, Indica Consulting

Kathryn Awada

Founder & CEO, Azara

Contact a METRC Expert.