Radio frequency tags may be used by Colorado regulators to track recreational pot from seed to sale

Technology demonstrated Wednesday by regulators

DENVER - Every marijuana plant or product legally grown or produced in Colorado will be tracked with a high tech radio frequency identification system.

Today, Department of Revenue enforcement officials demonstrated how the system called MITS, or Marijuana Inventory Tracking Solution, will work.

It’s part of the state’s attempt to regulate the marijuana industry and to ensure public safety.

Each plant or product will be given a tag to track the drug from seed to sale.

Enforcement officials will use a scanning gun to check individual plants.

The plant tags demonstrated on Wednesday are thin and yellow, measuring about 3 inches long and 1 inch wide. They will be hung on the marijuana plants with plastic ties.

For packaged products, a white adhesive version will be used.

Both tags label an item with a facility's license number, a serial number for the product and a "secure ID" held within the chip inside the tag. Each of those items are linked together in an inventory database.

"As I get closer over here to this tag, the beeping gets louder," said Lewis Koski, the chief of investigations for the Marijuana Enforcement Division.

Koski was demonstrating a scanner that looks a lot like what a grocery store or electronics store clerk would use to scan products in the aisles.

"It will work most effectively when we partner it -- and we plan to -- with video surveillance," said Barbara Brohl, executive director of the Colorado Department of Revenue. " And with scheduled and unscheduled compliance checks and other enforcement actions."

The system will also generate transport manifests so regulators will know if a package goes missing in transit. It will track the originating licensee, the intended recipients and the method of transportation.

If a product is contaminated, the tracking information can also be used.

"We have the ability within the system to actually freeze everything up the chain to where this was produced," explained Ron Kammerzell, senior director of enforcement for the state Department of Revenue.

Still, Kammerzell acknowledges the tracking system is only designed to regulate the licensed industry.

There are concerns that there may be unlicensed operators growing marijuana in Colorado and selling in and out of state.

Federal agents raided several homes last month because of a suspected involvement in illegal marijuana operations.

During the raids, authorities arrested a Columbian national for weapons violations and seized five assault rifles from his Cherry Hills Village home.

When asked if drug cartels are moving into Colorado, Kammerzel said, “I can’t comment on that because we’re investigating it. Obviously we take it very seriously.”

When asked if there are other criminal elements taking advantage of Colorado’s position at the forefront of legal marijuana sales, he said, "The more closely and tightly we regulate the industry, the less chance that we get an opportunity for that to occur."

He also said it will be important to work closely with police and to carry out compliance inspections.

Medical marijuana operators will be required to tie in to the new tracking system, despite having their own tracking systems already in place.

“It’s going to be quite costly for the industry,” said Michael Elliott, executive director of the Medical Marijuana Industry Group.

But Elliott calls the new system exciting.

Retail marijuana sales in Colorado begin on Jan. 1.

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