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A Complete Guide to Metrc Tags: Everything You Should Know About Them

June 17, 2024
February 23, 2024
| Updated
June 17, 2024

Do you operate your cannabis business in a state that uses Metrc's track and trace system? If so, you'll have to deal with Metrc tags. But what are they used for? What do they look like?

Since Metrc tags are an integral part of cannabis compliance workflows in states that use Metrc for their track and trace needs, new operators and their workers should equip themselves with extensive knowledge on this topic.

Are you new to the cannabis business world? Do you need to ensure compliance with state regulations and want to make sure your employees are educated on Metrc tags? You've come to the right place!

Below is a comprehensive guide to Metrc tags specifically designed to help you understand what they are, how they work, their importance to your cannabis business, and more. Keep reading!

Introduction to Metrc Track and Trace 

Let's start with the good news: more and more states are joining the cannabis industry! This will bring many opportunities for businesses like yours but also means that keeping track of compliance requirements can become more challenging.

Many of these states have chosen Metrc, which stands for Marijuana Enforcement, Tracking, Reporting & Compliance, as their primary track-and-trace solution for the cannabis industry.

This state-mandated software can track the cannabis supply chain from seed to sale. As such, Metrc has been designed for regulators, not operators. That doesn't mean you can't benefit from this system, though. Actually, it's essential to remain compliant. You'll need other tools to streamline your day-to-day operations.

Metrc offers state regulators access to a traceable history of every cannabis product sold in their jurisdiction. For operators, it's mandatory to use this system to track and report their activities in this industry, from cultivation or production to sales.

In other words, you'll be 100% responsible for meeting your state's regulatory and reporting requirements if you're a cannabis business owner.

Which States Use Metrc?

The following states use Metrc as their seed-to-sale cannabis tracking system:

Keep in mind that Metrc is adaptable to states' unique regulatory environments, so each one may have specific requirements and different workflows.

What Are Metrc Tags?

Now that you've learned more about Metrc, it's time to delve into another essential element in this industry: the Metrc tag.

As mentioned before, Metrc tracks and traces each cannabis plant and product in a state, from cultivation to distribution or sale. How does this system do this? On paper, it seems easy to monitor these activities from start to finish, but this process is actually more complex.

Metrc uses Radio Identification Tags (RFID tags) to track such items in real time. To remain compliant with their state's traceability and reporting requirements, cannabis operators must attach a Metrc tag to each of their plants, and  to products (or to each group of them.) Metrc tag IDs are also stored on a barcode on the Metrc tag. With so many Metrc plant and package tags in your facility, scanning the Metrc barcode ensures that you’re working with or making adjustments to the right tag number inside of Metrc.

Now, let's take a look at how Metrc tags work.

These tags feature electronic chips that carry proprietary coding and data about the specific item they're attached to. This data is displayed to inventory managers and state regulators during inspections and audits. But how can third parties get access to this information?

Well, they'll use a Metrc tag scanner. Handheld data-collecting hardware emits a radio wave to activate tags' chips. Special readers detect this signal and transmit that information to Metrc's database, where it's analyzed to track the movement of the products and check authenticity.

Metrc tags have been designed to track plants, products, and packages individually from seed to sale. Since they attach a unique identifier to each item, they can only be used once.

When a Metrc tag scanner is employed, the system verifies the tag's unique identifier, mitigating the chances of counterfeiting.

Click here for the full anatomy of a Metrc tag

What Kind of Metrc Tags Are There?

As mentioned, each state can set slightly different reporting and tracking regulations, even if they have all implemented Metrc. Does this mean that their Metrc tags will be different, too?

Excellent question! And this guide will also answer this.

Metrc tags have different "parts," which are sections with specific details, such as the operator's license number and the application identifier. The location of each piece of information may vary across states.

This means that a Metrc tag in Alabama won't necessarily look the same as one in California or Louisiana. In each state, tags may be slightly different.

However, across most states, Metrc tags typically fall into two categories: plant and package.

  • Metrc plant tags: They're attached to plants and allow you to trace the ones used to create a product.
  • Metrc package tags: They're attached to packages, which are containers that hold products from the same lot or groups of multiple containers that hold a single product and have unique identification numbers (UIDs). To ensure Metrc compliance, dispensaries must attach one of these stickers to each unique product package.

Similarities and Differences Between Metrc Plant and Package Tags

Both types are similar in several aspects, including the following:

  • Metrc tags can only be used once, which means they cannot be reused or recycled.
  • Metrc tags contain barcodes that help designate which plant or product you are working with
  • Cannabis operators cannot create their own tags. Instead, they must order and purchase them directly from Metrc in order to remain compliant.
  • Plant and package tags often display similar information, including a 24-digit unique identification number (UID), the facility's name and license number, medical or retail designation, and tag order date.
  • Metrc RFID tags are color-coded in yellow for medical cannabis and blue for retail or recreational licenses.

There are some differences between both types of Metrc tags, too. These are the most important ones:

Metrc Plant Tags

  • These tags are used to track cannabis plants from seed to sale.
  • Metrc plant tags are typically used by cultivators. However, other parties, such as dispensaries, must use them if they grow plants or seedlings for sale.
  • These tags are attached to plants in the early stages when they're still immature but stay with them throughout the entire growth cycle.
  • Metrc plant tags allow you to trace plants back to the location they came from at any point in the production cycle.

Metrc Package Tags

  • These tags are used to track cannabis products and packages once they're finished, so they're assigned after harvest.
  • Metrc package tags record the history of an inventory batch from end to end, so they contain information about different processes, including testing, adjustments, transfers, contamination, and package creation. As such, they aren't the same as SKU numbers or product barcode labels.
  • These tags are attached to packages that contain only one type of product.
  • Metrc package tags are physical stickers with perforations and two portions (top and bottom). Each portion has the UID printed on it. While the larger one (top) is attached to the package, the small one (bottom) is attached to the retail container or manifest paperwork.
  • While dispensaries typically receive packages with these stickers on, they may still need to order their own package tags if they're required to create child packages from existing ones (split-lotting) for certain workflow scenarios. Some examples may include transfers of packages out of stores with historical sales against them or transactions that involve accepting inventory into one store before distributing a portion of it to another store.

Where Do You Buy Metrc Tags?

Do you feel like you know enough information about Metrc tags? Are you ready to order yours? Here's everything you need to know before doing so.

First, keep in mind that both plant and package tags can only be ordered and purchased from Metrc directly. As mentioned before, you cannot create your own.

To order Metrc tags, your designated Metrc account manager must follow these steps:

  1. Log in to Metrc
  2. Click on "Admin" in the top navigation bar
  3. Click on the "Tag Orders" button
  4. Open the "Current" tab
  5. Go to "New Tag Order"
  6. Fill in all blank fields
  7. Click on "Place Order"
  8. Mark the order as "Received" once you receive your tag shipment to activate them

Make sure to order tags before running out of them! If you don't have enough, you won't be able to package or transfer materials. Also, remember that two businesses cannot share tags because the sticker will be printed with each location's license number. If you run multiple licensed dispensaries, you'll need to order package tags for each one.

Metrc Tag Costs

Let's answer one of the most intriguing questions: how much do Metrc tags cost?

Metrc charges $0.25 per package tag, while plant tags are priced at $0.45. However, this may come with other costs, as some licensees must pay a monthly fee for Metrc support and training.

You can order tags in bulk from Metrc, but orders cannot be canceled once the printing process begins because they're custom-printed for each licensee.

How Many Metrc Tags Do I Need?

The estimated number of Metrc tags your business needs will vary based on how many plants you have or how many packages you distribute/sell. A facility that has 60,000 plants may use exactly 60,000 tags. However, this figure can be higher if you have a large operation and doesn't include the tags you'll need for packages.

So, to calculate how many Metrc tags you need, you must assess your cannabis operation. How many plants do you have in your facility? How many packages should you create? This information will help you make your estimates.

The last thing you want as a cannabis business operator is to realize that you've run out of Metrc tags. Plus, you should have at least one sleeve of tags available for child packages that may be needed.

Ideally, you should assign someone to track the number of available tags. Do you order only one sleeve of tags? Pay attention to how long it takes you to get through it and order again when up to 50% of that lot is used.

If you order more than one sleeve of Metrc tags, use one at a time and order more when your employees ask for the last one.

Also, you may be wondering if you can reuse Metrc tags to save costs or continue packaging or transferring products before ordering the new ones. However, they aren't reusable. As explained above, you can only use these stickers once.

Managing Metrc Packages Through Seed-to-Sale Software

If you want to avoid running out of Metrc tags and make sure you remain compliant with state regulations, managing your packages is crucial! Fortunately, you can streamline this process with the right seed-to-sale software.

Distru is one of the best options you can find for this purpose. Our all-in-one solution can help you keep track of packages and offers live two-way synchronization with Metrc.

With this powerful tool, you can monitor your bulk and finished goods and ensure your inventory packages match your physical inventory to ensure ongoing Metrc compliance.

Since our integration communicates with Metrc multiple times per second, everything will be synced up all the time. Whether you need to adjust and split packages or use them for sales orders, all of this information will be mirrored in this system. Say goodbye to double entry and save a lot of time!

Do you want to learn more about Distru and how our software solution with Metrc integration can help you manage your inventory to remain compliant? Book a demo today!


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