LAKELAND – Metrc added two new executives last week in yet another sign the Lakeland-based cannabis tracking company is growing fast. Cannabis regulat
LAKELAND – Metrc added two new executives last week in yet another sign the Lakeland-based cannabis tracking company is growing fast.
Cannabis regulators from Colorado to Massachusetts have relied on Metrc, LLC to track and trace cannabis from seed to point of sale since 2012, when Colorado legalized recreational marijuana use.
As more states legalize cannabis for medical and adult use, Metrc has expanded its reach across the United States with track-and-trace technology that supports a diversity of policies, agencies, and licensees across the country.
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Metrc has appointed Zahid Ali as chief technology officer. Metrc’s previous CTO, Jesse Naranjo, will become the company’s first chief product officer and establish a new product management division, overseeing the design, market analysis, and implementation of new products.
“We’ve experienced tremendous internal and external growth as a company in the past few years, and I’m thrilled to announce we’ve rounded out our C-suite,” said Jeff Wells, Merc’s chief executive officer and its founder.
“An established leader in the information technology industry, Zahid has been instrumental in implementing Metrc and supporting government and industry in California, the largest regulated cannabis market in the country,” Wells said.
During California’s implementation of Metrc, Zahid served as the primary liaison for the state, coordinating training, support, and software change requests. Prior to joining Metrc, Zahid worked at CGI, one of the largest information technology and business consulting firms in the world.
He also holds a law degree from the University of California at Davis School of Law and worked at the Kern County District Attorney’s office. Before that, he began his career as a programmer and analyst at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
The company also has a high client retention rate with the states it helps with cannabis regulatory compliance. Alaska, Michigan, and Nevada extended their current track-and-trace contracts with Metrc, the company reported. Another client, Montana, also expanded its medical contract with Metrc to provide track-and-trace for the recently legalized adult-use market.
The trend continues Metrc’s 100% contract renewal rate, a unique distinction it holds among U.S. track-and-trace companies.
Metrc is a company of about 140 employees that was founded by Jeff Wells of Brandon and it can trace its own roots to the strawberry farms in Plant City, where Wells developed radio-frequency identification (RFID) tracking from farm to market for the growers with an earlier company he started, said the new company’s spokesperson, Bronwyn Flores.
In 2012 when Colorado started a cannabis program, Wells saw an opportunity to grow the family-owned business using similar technology the engineer had developed for Central Florida produce farmers, she said.
The company currently occupies a 5,000-square-foot facility in Lakeland with more than 40 people and is planning to expand beyond those walls later this year, said Flores without disclosing the additional location.
The list of products and services that Merc provides includes software, RFID, a customer support team, and a secure database to track cannabis from growth, harvest, and processing to testing, transport, and sale. Along the way, Merc collects 360 data points, Flores said. She explained the height of the plants, their strength, as well as the delivery truck’s location are all among the information gathered while tracking cannabis.
“Metrc serves more than 250,000 users, including growers, testing facilities, dispensaries, state regulators, and law enforcement officials across 15 states and the District of Columbia,” the press release explained.
Metrc may have been flying under the radar in Lakeland, but it has not been passed over by private investors. In an October 2018 Tech Crunch article, the magazine covering tech startups reported, “Metrc gained its first outside round of funding in the form of $50 million from Tiger Global Management and Casa Verde Ventures, the three-year-old, cannabis-focused venture firm that was famously co-founded by rapper Snoop Dogg but is largely managed by Goldman Sachs and Nomura Securities alum Karan Wadhera.”
The company also hopes to see the cannabis industry grow in Florida. Metrc published an editorial that ran in the Miami Herald criticizing Florida’s current cannabis system, which is one state where Metrc has not been tapped to provide regulatory compliance.
The editorial authored by two of its executives was critical of the requirement for vertical integration which means the Florida statute requires “medical cannabis companies to manage all aspects of the business – from growing to processing to sales – in-house,” they wrote. Not all states require this and can still run safe and secure systems.
Further, the op-ed advocated for more licenses for growers, as Florida only has 13 currently, which is less than other states with a lower resident population, and reducing the $60,000 investment growers have to pay for the license.
According to InvestingNews.com, BDS Analytics projects that Florida’s medical cannabis market will hit $1.5 billion in sales in 2021, up 53 percent over 2020 sales.