Pennsylvania's Pot Problems Aren't Agricultural, They're Technological
It took nearly two years after the governor of Pennsylvania signed Act 16 into law to for officials to blaze a path for the state’s new medical marijuana program to actually open dispensaries and begin providing safe access to cannabis for qualified residents.
As of mid-July, the state has 28 dispensaries open to serve over 30,000 registered MMJ patients (and counting) with plans for the number of retail outlets to bloom to over 80 locations by the end of the year.
Originally, the program was hamstrung by a lack of legal cultivation facilities, but lately, the bottleneck to the program’s potential success has been technological, not agricultural.
On 4/20 in 2017, the Pennsylvania Department of Health awarded a $10.4 million contract to a Colorado-based firm by the name of MJ Freeway who was then tasked with tracking the entirety of the state’s cannabis-related commerce from “seed to sale”.
A cool ten mill may sound like a lot of money but it turns out that the less-qualified MJ Freeway won the bid by undercutting the rest of the competing firms by several million dollars.
They were granted this monumental task in the eye of a storm of problems for MJ Freeway that had already displayed a lack of proper security measures.
One attack in January of 2017 permanently deleted swaths of client's data stored in the cloud-based system. Another, in June, saw the company’s source code stolen and temporarily reposted, in full, on Reddit. In September a hacker was found shopping around stolen data from the MJ Freeway hubs in Washington state and Nevada. This prompted Nevada to cancel their contract with the firm just two years into a five-year contract. Then, in October, the company failed to meet state-mandated deadlines in Pennsylvania.
Still, Pennsylvania had chosen them and, unfortunately, not much has changed in the way the company handles its responsibilities.
Just this past Thursday the MJ Freeway system in Pennsylvania crashed yet again – not the first time – forcing dispensaries across the state to turn patients away empty-handed for several hours.
Jeannette Horton, a spokesperson for MJ Freeway, did her best to polish the turd, but it only got worse. “It made it a better system," said Horton, "but sometimes when that happens, it triggers other stuff — things running slowly and timing out. It was different from client to client. It's not ideal."
You’ve got that right!
How about running that stress test in the off-hours that dispensaries are forced to be closed for anyway?
She added that the system did not technically “go down”, just that pages “were not showing up-to-date info”. She also encouraged any stores affected by such a crash to just take care of business the old fashioned way, with paper and pen and hand-written receipts.
This is the equivalent of Apple telling you to just find a paper map or send smoke signals if your iPhone stops working, except there isn’t an iPhone on earth that costs $10,000 like the state-mandated MJ Freeway software does.
The PA Health Dept. quickly buzzkilled that non-solution anyway, publicly reminding their contracted regulatory firm that such actions are absolutely not allowed and can potentially encourage illegal sales and diversion of medical product outside of the medical market.
Democratic State Rep. Jake Wheatley knows a simple way to avoid much of the mess associated with MJ Freeway - just legalize the recreational use and sale of cannabis. He has proposed a bill to do just that, citing a recent report by the state’s Auditor General that estimated legalizing marijuana could generate more than $580 million in annual tax revenue for Pennsylvania.
Nobody keeps your name and purchase history on file at 7/11 if you stop by to grab a 6-pack of beer and so you never have to worry about hackers finding your name or other personal info on such a list. The same goes for everything from burritos to bullets but for some reason society feels the need to track cannabis like the plant itself is some sort of criminal.
We know that Pennsylvania will continue to push the movement forward, even if the state’s weed website continues to lag behind.