Alternative Therapies Group in Salem – the third recreational dispensary to open in Massachusetts – announced last week that it was temporarily out of stock, and would only service card-carrying medical marijuana patients for the time being. Even those who already scheduled appointments for a recreational marijuana sale are out of luck.
It’s the first time any of the state’s recreational dispensaries have shut down since opening late last year. So what happened?
It revolves around METRC, a seed-to-sale tracking system first developed for Colorado’s legalization of recreational marijuana in 2013, which has since been adopted by a number of states regulating their emerging legal marijuana markets. The state’s Cannabis Control Commission requires all dispensaries to use it, and helps stores track plants from the seed stage all the way to the final product that reaches consumers.
According to a blog post on ATG’s website, the group said its “inventory data…[became] corrupted in the state’s seed-to-sale tracking system, METRC. cultivation and product manufacturing facility (or from third-party vendors) into the Salem dispensary. The METRC support team and the Cannabis Control Commission have been working hard to correct the problem, but it is a time-consuming and complex process.”
But the chairman of the state’s cannabis commission, Steven Hoffman, was dismissive of that explanation.
“It’s not a physical inventory issue. It’s literally a recording issue, and it’s a data-entry issue,” Hoffman told reporters after a commission meeting, according to the Boston Globe. “I’m not going to get into who said what to whom, but the data was not entered correctly. I think it is easily fixable…this is not a METRC issue…[it’s] working, in our opinion exactly, the way it should.”
This may seem like a minor flub, but without an accurate inventory count, the dispensary would be legally barred from moving any plants from its cultivation center to the store itself.
Without more details – both parties have declined further comment on these matters in other outlets – it’s not clear what exactly happened at ATG. Confirmed METRC glitches have caused headaches in the past for dispensaries in other states, including Maryland, Washington and Pennsylvania, though human error has also been a factor in closures outside of Massachusetts, too.
When will it open again?
It’s not clear when the store will again service recreational customers. “We do not have an expected timeline for the problem to be resolved at the moment,” the dispensary website reads, noting they “deeply regret” the closure.
Why is it OK for medical patients to keep going?
Under state regulations, dispensaries must keep a certain amount of product on reserve to ensure medical patients don’t experience any lapses in sales – a move championed by medical marijuana advocates in the lead up to recreational legalization.