Exclusive Interview: BioTrackTHC Director of Governmental Affairs, Daniel Sparks
May 29, 2018
Who is Daniel Sparks and what do you do?
I am a cannabis advocate that has been involved in the medical cannabis movement in Colorado since 2009, and in Florida since 2014.
In Florida, I participated in the rule-making workshops that were hosted by the Florida Department of Health under the low-thc Compassionate Medical Marijuana Act. I also participated in petition gathering with United for Care during their push to get Amendment 2 on the ballot in 2014. After starting a consulting business with a 30-year nurseryman from Florida and a good friend that owns dispensaries in Colorado, our plans changed after Amendment 2 failed to pass in 2014. I joined BioTrackTHC in May of 2015 as their Director of Government Affairs. My role with BioTrackTHC includes policy development, educating government entities on the benefits of our technology, proposal writing for government procurements, as well as legal compliance for the company and our cannabis software solutions.
What does BioTrackTHC do?
BioTrackTHC develops cannabis seed to sale tracking and business management software for both governments and licensed businesses. We provide an easy-to-use compliance tool in addition to giving businesses and governments access to the mountains of data that this industry collects.
How is BioTrackTHC different or better than other seed to sale companies?
I could write a short novel explaining what makes us different, so let me summarize a couple key points. For starters, we take pride in the fact that we are recognized as innovators in the seed to sale space. Currently, BioTrack is the only company in the history of the cannabis industry that has provided government tracking to both medical and recreational states, commercial tracking for all licensed businesses, as well as launched and operated the industry’s only private-sector traceability system, which upheld the entire State of Washington’s cannabis industry for 4+ months.
In addition to our unique, 360 degree view of how this industry operates, we’re also the only government contractor in cannabis seed-to-sale that is able to customize our software to adhere to a given state’s/jurisdictions unique rules and regulations. Most of our competitors offer “out of the box” solutions, which we are also able to provide. However, we’re also able to provide granular customizations and one-off functionality requests to create a government traceability system that is specific to a given state. Each state’s cannabis program is unique, so it’s unrealistic to assume that the same out of the box system can address the needs of every single program.
For example, the two existing tracking methods are RFID tags and traditional barcode tracking. BioTrack is the only company that is able to offer both methods to our government clients, and that’s because we understand that no two states or businesses are the same. Our emphasis is on flexible technology that can adjust and grow alongside the changing and evolving cannabis markets in which we operate.
Why is seed to sale tech important?
Statewide tracking systems were born out of necessity after the release of the Cole Memo in 2013. That document spelled out guidelines that states were instructed to follow in order to avoid federal interference. The now-rescinded document basically said that states that have systems in place that prevent diversion of legal cannabis to states where it is illegal, would not be an enforcement priority for US Attorneys in those respective states. Although the guidelines in the Cole Memo are no longer in effect, seed to sale tracking is still seen as a prerequisite for states to operate a cannabis program in order to not be an enforcement priority for federal agencies. This enables states to maintain chain of custody of the entire state’s supply-chain, as well as provide transparency between licensees and regulatory agencies.
Can seed to sale be used for help the security of medical cannabis programs?
As a matter of fact, that is what BioTrackTHC was created for. When the company was formed in 2010, recreational cannabis programs were not yet in place, so the system was originally developed to address the needs of medical cannabis programs. From cultivation to quality assurance laboratory testing, delivery and final sale, BioTrackTHC maintains full chain of custody of all cannabis plants in a given market in real-time. Besides regulatory compliance, we’re able to ensure product purity and even enact product recalls in real-time, as well as enforce daily purchase limits to stop patients from visiting multiple businesses in a given timeframe. A practice that is commonly abused in typical prescription drug industries where a patient is able to fill a given prescription 3 times in a day by visiting multiple businesses. In BioTrack-operated medical states, patients are unable to abuse that system, unlike states like Colorado where a medical patient can purchase their daily limit 5 times in a given day, so long as they go to different businesses that are not otherwise connected.
What is your opinion on Florida canceling the procurement app?
It appears that the DOH wanted to make some changes in order to ensure the system that they are seeking is appropriate for their needs. Every single cannabis program is still just an experiment. Nobody has “perfected” it. So when it comes to selecting the system that will be responsible for a state’s success, you can’t be too thorough. Of course, we want to see the program reach an operational status as soon as possible, but we also appreciate seeing regulators acting proactively to make the necessary changes that will ensure a successful and transparent medical cannabis program.
When can we expect the state to award a contract for seed to sale?
It’s difficult to say because these things take time and as I said previously, you can’t be too thorough. If I had to guess, I would say that they will likely choose a vendor this summer, depending on when they re-release the procurement.
How does seed to sale prevent diversion or inversion?
Our technology creates a full chain of custody by assigning an alphanumeric identifier to each and every plant and byproduct as it is introduced into a licensee’s inventory, ultimately creating a closed-loop supply chain that can trace every product or material back to its origin. No plant or product can be introduced to the supply-chain without containing the necessary identifier, and the historical data contained within that identifier that can trace its history back to its origin within that closed-loop system. Inversely, nothing can leave the supply-chain without legitimate cause, such as a transfer to another licensee or sale to a consumer. If a transfer is initiated to another licensee, that inventory remains within the transferring businesses system until the other licensee accepts that transfer, moving the inventory to the accepting businesses system. This creates an accountability factor that is controlled by 3rd parties so no one entity has control over the process. Additionally, if any product or weight that was produced goes missing without the proper sale or transfer data to show exactly where it went, flags can be raised in the system letting the regulatory body know that an inspection of that business is needed.
Is there anything currently preventing diversion or inversion in Florida?
As far as I am aware, each MMTC in Florida currently uses some form of seed to sale tracking locally in their business. The OMMU has conducted numerous inspections of facilities across the state where I assume they are verifying that diversion or inversion has not been occurring and that businesses are using some sort of technology solution to effectively prove themselves of operating within that expectation.
What makes Florida unique compared to other states?
The fact that 71% of Florida residents voted for Amendment 2 in 2016 is one of the highest margins of victory for cannabis initiatives in the US. The demographics in Florida as far as seasonal residents and our elderly population make us unique as far as potential patient pool. Seniors are the fastest growing demographic for cannabis use, especially as it relates to medical-use and wellness. Florida is primed to become a major medical market.
Why should Florida select the industry leader, BiotrackTHC?
Our track record speaks for itself. We’ve never missed a traceability deployment deadline, we have a perfect data security history, and our 360 degree view of how this industry operates is unmatched. The biggest criticism we get from competition is that we have a conflict of interest related to being a commercial software provider, in addition to a government traceability provider. However, we find that to actually be our biggest advantage.
The reason it’s an advantage is because when you’re implementing a brand new cannabis program, it’s extremely difficult to understand the implications that decision-making and regulatory structures will have on the wellbeing of the businesses and ultimately, the health of your medical cannabis industry. Our experience and the fact that we operate on both sides allows us to make sure that governments steer the program in a direction that allows the businesses to thrive, provides the government with peace of mind and creates a strong and transparent industry. We couldn’t provide that type of guidance unless we had the full understanding of both the business’s and the government’s priorities and obstacles.
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