Lewis Koski is still sitting in his living room in Lakeland, Florida, with headphones in his ear and speaking to WELT. In just a few hours, Koski will fold up his laptop and take a flight to Berlin. The destination of his trip: the International Cannabis Business Conference (ICBC) in the German capital.
There, the former US policeman wants to present the technology of the American company Metrc, for which he works as co-managing director: a system for tracking cannabis plants.
This week at ICBC, the cannabis industry will reconvene for the first time this round since the pandemic began. Federal Drug Commissioner Burkhard Blienert will also be present, along with several dozen companies and start-ups from the marijuana industry.
The top issue is determined by politics: cannabis legalization, which the federal government intends to initiate in this legislative period.
The prestige project of the traffic light coalition should also generate a whole bunch of new start-ups and business models. Companies for the cultivation and sale of the plants are already positioning themselves in order to be able to get involved with the start of legal drug sales. But niche players are also hoping that legalization will help them establish themselves on the German market.
One of these hidden champions of the weed scene is Metrc, the market leader in business-to-government (B2G) with headquarters in Lakeland, Florida. With the help of electronic chips, the company and its 150 employees want to make the cannabis supply chain traceable from cultivation to sale.
This should serve the security of customers – and the financial interests of the state. The American high-tech system could soon be used in Germany to collect taxes on cannabis.
“Cannabis has always been part of my work,” says Lewis Koski. As a US cop, he primarily targeted those who served or bought on the black market. He later went into administration and became head of the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division, the agency responsible for regulating cannabis in the state of Colorado.
“As head of the agency, I was able to do more than I could in my job as a police officer to fight the black market,” says Koski.
In early 2014, Colorado legalized the sale of marijuana. In his function as head of the authority, Koski regularly exchanged views with companies in the industry. Among them was the pioneer company Metrc for so-called radio frequency identification technology (RFID), which ensures the contactless identification and localization of objects.
The company, along with the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division, manufactured the United States’ first cannabis tracking system. In 2019, Koski switched sides and joined Metrc as Managing Director.
“Using the RFID chips, we can monitor the entire supply chain, starting with each individual plant,” says Koski. The chips added to the plants register the location where the plant is located and the weight of the plant when harvested. But information on the THC content of the plant, data on the grower and the quality of the harvest is also noted in the software.
“It’s like when you order a package from Amazon and then you can track where it is at any time. That’s how it works with the plants, only we provide a lot more information than Amazon, especially health and safety data.”
The data is of particular interest to government agencies. In the US, Metrc works with 21 states. On the one hand, the system ensures that only legally grown cannabis reaches the sales outlets.
On the other hand, in the event of quality problems, all intermediate stations of the goods can be traced back. “Companies also have access to certain data on their RFID chips. However, only government agencies have full access to all data,” says Koski.
Koski has been to Germany before: at consultation rounds of German politics and for talks with representatives from cannabis companies. When asked by WELT, Federal Drug Commissioner Blienert did not want to comment on whether the federal government intends to introduce such a tracking system for cannabis.
The cannabis industry association BvCW considers tracking systems such as Metrc offer to be useful. “A tracking system is to be welcomed both from the point of view of consumer safety and that of taxation,” says the association.
But even if the federal government decides in favor of such a tracking system, it is by no means certain that ex-cop Koski will get a chance. Because the competition in this niche is strong. In the USA, the companies Biotrack and Akerna operate similar systems. The company Cannavigia is active in Switzerland.
But Koski doesn’t want to let that slow him down. For him, Germany is the decisive step across the Atlantic. In the near future he will probably be in Europe more often – and will open a European branch for his company.
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