Can I Manage My Business with Metrc and Spreadsheets Alone?

April 23, 2024
October 9, 2020
| Updated
March 1, 2023
Angie Penuela

Incredible! Your to-do list seems to be shrinking by the hour.

After endless weekends and sleepless nights, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Your access to Metrc is finally secured. You can breathe.

One chapter closes and another one opens. Remaining in your to do list are software related tasks: To get your Quickbooks account setup and look into seed-to-sale software. What’s that about?

“Do you really need to dish out more dollars?” you think to yourself, wondering if spreadsheets and Quickbooks alone will do the trick.

This is a cardinal question faced by many cannabis operators and one that warrants getting into the weeds of things.

To figure out what you need or don’t need, it is important to know what you can and cannot truly accomplish without cannabis software, which we dive into below.

What Is Metrc Really?

Metrc is a cannabis traceability solution providing end-to-end tracking of cannabis from seed to sale. Metrc has both a government-facing solution, and a cannabis operator-facing cloud-based system to manage and report supply chain activities as determined by the state regulations, which will be the point of focus for us today.

While a robust tool for supply chain tracking and compliance, Metrc is not a solution for cannabis operators to manage their businesses end to end, leaving critical functions such as sales, orders, taxes, returns and plenty more to be fulfilled from other tools. Some can finesse and get by with Metrc and spreadsheets alone, but there are many gaps in using this approach such as double data entry, human errors and inefficiencies that you can’t afford to have.

In this post we highlight the following top issues and real-life scenarios that you may face without using actual cannabis business software.

Live Inventory

  1. Inability to reserve packages in Metrc
  2. Allocation of inventory not possible
  3. If using spreadsheets, a lot of manual updating
  4. Spreadsheet errors can become complicated to manage and fix as organization scales
  5. Difficulty in restricting access to specific inventory for brand partners
  6. Cannot track non-cannabis inventory in Metrc

Order Management

  1. Inadequate tax management
  2. Cannot track purchases and payments to suppliers
  3. Cannot track sales orders / invoices and payments from customers
  4. Order fulfillment a very manual process


  1. No financial reporting in Metrc; limited availability in accounting software
  2. Reporting in excel or spreadsheets requires leg work
  3. Spreadsheets mandatory regardless of cannabis software or not

Live Inventory

order management

Inability to reserve inventory in Metrc

In Metrc, packages have a few statuses: active, on hold, finished (inactive), discontinued. Of these, active packages are the ones that are assembled/repackaged or sold, thus they are what sales people look at when figuring what they have available for sale. The problem with just looking at active packages is that they don’t account for packages that have been reserved for selling.

Scenario: There are 500 units of Vape Cart X that 2 sales reps trying to sell at the same time

  • Raul sells 500 first
  • Shana sells 500 soon after

Since there was no update after the first sale, Shana still thinks 500 is available. This leads to oversold inventory, requiring Shana to go back and tell her customer the product is no longer available.

If their organization uses spreadsheets, someone would have to manually go and reserve the 300 Raul wants to sell immediately so that Shana can check the actual ‘live inventory’ before committing to the sale, and if Raul’s customer then changes their order, the inventory manager would have to go back and update the spreadsheet manually again.

Allocating inventory to sales rep or location not possible

Allocating inventory is important when you want to limit how much each sales rep should be able to sell, or if you want to transfer specific inventory to various teams to sell. The mechanism is similar for transferring inventory between quarantine to finished goods inventory, and even though Metrc provides `Lab Testing` states for packages, the only way to know what your actual sellable inventory is tedious and requires manually counting.

Maintaining count of your finished goods inventory is much easier with spreadsheets but requires constant manual updating to account for complexities such as returns, failed tests and so on.

Lack of Restricted Access for Brand Partners

For those who have brand partners who either have their own sales reps or simply want to track their own branded goods at the distribution facility, providing limited access to these brand partners is difficult outside of cannabis software.

One way to do it is to add them to Metrc as employees, but that means they would be able to see your other inventory as well. Another way is to give them access to your spreadsheet, with permissions, so that they only see that specific inventory, which means you have to set up more complicated formulas to ensure that that inventory lines up and is easy to manage based on changes in orders.

Cannot track non-cannabis inventory in Metrc

Another issue with Metrc is that it does not allow you to track non-cannabis items, which you can track in spreadsheets, but given how quickly things like stickers and jars are used up, there will be a lot of manual work required to keep them updated unless again you have a robust spreadsheet setup, but that poses its own problems as the organization scales, creating tremendous risk and complications that become unmanageable and lead to a lot of wasted time.  

Order Management

Inadequate tax management

As mentioned, Metrc facilitates the tracking of plants and packages as they move through the supply chain, but it does not allow you to track related financial data. For example, wholesale manifest transfers allow you to input price per package but there is no place to get automatically calculated excise taxes or incorporate discounts on an order level.

Cannot track purchases and payments to suppliers

All purchases come in as incoming transfers with package item names and quantities, but there is no pricing associated, nor is there any way to track how much you are paying or have paid on a given incoming transfer since that information does not concern Metrc.

No automated way to create packages

You have to manually create packages to fulfill orders as opposed to using software that figures out the math for you and helps you create these packages automatically based on the order requirements. This is a less obvious point unless you have reached a point where you have staff spending an inordinate amount of time creating packages all the time, but an important one nonetheless.



Insufficient financial reporting in Metrc

Metrc has quite a few reports that are useful but, unfortunately, cumbersome. Take for example the Transfers report. It is a PDF or excel file that you must download and search through using control / command F functions, another very tedious exercise that will frustrate your users incessantly. Add to that the fact that there is little financial information available, you won’t be able to actually get useful insights beyond ‘what the transfer contained and when it was sent.’

Metrc offers the following reports:

  • Inventory Point in Time
  • Lab Results
  • Packages Adjustments
  • Packages Inventory
  • Transfers (a few different types)

The value of these reports is implicit, but as you can see, they do not cover the financial facets of a cannabis operation, and are often error-prone at the time of opening. There are no dynamic search capabilities but the filtering capabilities are nice as are the export options.

Spreadsheets are mandatory for businesses but require leg work

For financial reporting you could use accounting software and spreadsheets with pivot tables but the reports are as good as the data and not everyone has in house capability to get these made. One way or another, spreadsheets are a standard part of business management in some capacity, especially because there are situations that are complex to deal with, requiring custom data analysis, either because of the complexity of the problem or the way your organization deals with issues such as returns.


Distru is a no-bullsh*t software solution for cannabis manufacturers and distributors. Consider us the central hub for your whole operation, from inventory management and order fulfillment to sales and distribution, all while keeping you compliant with Metrc. Ditch the spreadsheets, keep your teams aligned (pro tip: accountants love us) and focus on growing your market share.

Curious About What Distru Can Do for You?

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