High Spirits

#006 - Traceability Landscape and All Things Cannabis Data w/ Joe Khoury

August 17, 2023 AnnaRae Grabstein, Ben Larson, Joe Khoury Episode 6
High Spirits
#006 - Traceability Landscape and All Things Cannabis Data w/ Joe Khoury
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Are you ready to venture into the enthralling world of cannabis data? Our guest, Joe Khoury, brings a fascinating perspective to the table. We explore his evolution of the cannabis industry, starting from a small advisory organization to becoming a multi-state operator. Joe shares his expert knowledge on the landscape of traceability, the various state traceability systems -- such as Metrc, BioTrac, and MJFreeway -- and the impact of regulations on data collection and analysis. He also gives us an exclusive on the challenges faced while implementing cannabis systems and the hurdles created by lack of access to state systems.

Did you know that the product approval processes may vary from state to state? This often overlooked aspect can have significant implications for production planning. We unravel how cannabis companies modify their data programs and technology stacks to adapt to different traceability systems. 

As we delve deeper into the world of cannabis traceability, we also discuss the software challenges faced by the industry. The importance of strategic planning, the need for agile and flexible solutions, and how businesses can clearly define their needs before choosing software solutions are key aspects we discuss. We wrap up the discussion underlining the significance of understanding software and data tools, and the promise of new solutions. Join us as we unmask these intricate details of cannabis industry traceability!

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Speaker 2:

Welcome to High Spirits Live, where we're serving up unfiltered insights, revealing our insider's perspectives and illuminating transformative strategies for people like you who are trying to make sense of the cannabis industry. So let's jump right in, anna Rae how are you doing this morning?

Speaker 1:

Hey Ben, I'm doing great. I am feeling super excited and optimistic. I stayed up late last night rooting on a group that I've been helping in Jersey City who just got their local retail cannabis license. So shout out there. And yeah, starting off today with some hopefulness and optimism on cannabis.

Speaker 2:

That is great. Yeah, we like the spirits being high. I was also up late last night, but not necessarily while I was working. I was with coworkers, but there was definitely maybe some sake and some karaoke. Have you ever been to the ramen shop in Oakland, California?

Speaker 1:

Oh, I love that place it's so good.

Speaker 2:

Did you know that they have a secret karaoke room in the back?

Speaker 1:

No, I had no idea it was epic.

Speaker 2:

It was just like we had no plans of doing it. We had about, I think there was eight of us there and we got towards the end of dinner and just what happens that one of our team members his fiance is the chef there, and so we got to go back and it's like literally through. There's like you walk into the back and it looks like you know, just a dark kind of there was lockers or they looked like lockers, and all of a sudden she like sticks her hand into this handle and like pulls the lockers open and you walk into this amazing like karaoke room and so we spent the next like two or three hours there and therefore I'm drinking coffee this morning.

Speaker 1:

Well, so everybody has a go to karaoke song. That's the first one you look for.

Speaker 2:

What's yours, I'm okay. So this is not indicative of my ability to sing. So therefore it is a terrible choice. But Whitney Houston, want to dance with somebody? Okay, so that one just really gets the. You know the vocal chords and the energy going. But if you're looking for engagement, bohemian Rhapsody is like quintessential, like it always brings down the house. You always get the entire, if you're in a bar bar, engaged. I've done it last night and then also one time we were karaokeing on Catalina Island and just this random dive bar in Catalina. It was crazy. I don't know how I ended up there, but the entire bar singing it. And again, I can't sing very well. So it's really great when other people that can't sing also join in. And so, yeah, bohemian Rhapsody.

Speaker 1:

Nice.

Speaker 2:

How about you?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, piano man by Elton John.

Speaker 2:

So yeah, classic Very good.

Speaker 1:

Classic. It's way, way advanced for singing, of which I am not, but yeah, the whole bar will sing along. It just feels good. It's one of those epic songs, so yeah, I love it.

Speaker 2:

Do you fancy yourself a singer? Hannah Rae?

Speaker 1:

Oh, not at all. But I do like to sing along, and in my house my husband and my son are very musical and they play drums and guitar and bass, and really the only thing that I can add is some singing along the way. So I'm down, I'm down every once in a while.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, all right, very good. And we were discussing offline that we have an anniversary party at our office tonight, which I hope you can make it Anyone listening, if there's anyone listening. Berkeley, if you're in Berkeley, shoot me a text or DM, whatever and we'll make sure you get there. But because we had so much fun last night, I am going to, in between now and this evening, try to figure out how to set up karaoke at the office in the middle of the party.

Speaker 1:

So this is the challenge for tonight. Okay, yeah.

Speaker 2:

We got the mics. Clearly, we got the mics, I think the projector. I'm sure there's like an app you can download and you just, you know, stick your phone in, so like we're gonna give it a go. Do some piano man.

Speaker 1:

Well, so let's dive into today's pod. I think sure. You know, both of us are Are constantly paying attention to cannabis news. Our last week's pod was all about news and One of the things that I saw that really sparked my attention recently Was a blog that Joe Corey posted on LinkedIn. That was all about the traceability landscape in cannabis and when, and we're gonna have him come on and talk about this, but it was such an exciting and interesting article that sparked so many thoughts for me and questions that I thought this would be an incredible guest for us to To bring on and talk about kind of this foundational Software that drives the whole cannabis space.

Speaker 2:

So today, we have Joe Corey yeah.

Speaker 1:

Joe Corey came to cannabis by selling a technology company to Mary Med and has been at Mary Med Leading their software and data for the past five years. I think he said he was employee number eight. It's pretty cool. Wow yeah yeah, early employee and now is doing content creation and advising under the banner of how to Cannabis data comm. So really excited to have Joe. Let's let's bring him on.

Speaker 2:

There he is.

Speaker 3:

How we doing. I appreciate that intro and, in the spirit of full transparency, it was a packaging company. Okay, we made the packaging better with technology solutions, but yeah, I can't thank you guys enough for that intro. I've been with Mary Med since they acquired Iroly from myself and my co-founder, luke Schepter, you know, was, I believe, employee eight or nine when we were a small advisory business in 2018. There now we are this multi-state operator with full vertical in almost all states with a portfolio premium brands. So I've been able to see the industry iterate from a pretty unique perspective, leading all software and data initiatives here. You know that began at a small advisory org and it was smaller single-state org that became this enterprise level juggernaut. So you know I've seen the data and software challenges at each vertical of the business units and, if you talk about an MSO, that inclusive of D2C for both brands and dispensaries. So have been able to gather a pretty good holistic perspective on all things. Canvas data Amazing sweet, that's great. I even share one of those tips here and you guys before backstage, for anybody who's as bad a singer as me, we go by Ram Jam, okay, go in, and no matter how bad you sing, they won't hear you.

Speaker 2:

That is a good one, and I can really like get that raspy like voice in there.

Speaker 3:

Oh yeah, it hides how bad you are, is a saying I.

Speaker 2:

Love it.

Speaker 1:

Well, so you know, I first heard your name past year or so. Helene from Journey 1, who runs a fund that I advise on, told me that you are really one of the the top thinkers in her opinion in giving her advice and insights into the technology space and, and you know, journey 1 is a is a tech-focused cannabis fund. So I really very much took that as as a strong reference. And then when I saw the content that you put out I think it was about a week and a half ago, two weeks ago about traceability, I was really impressed because I think that data and software and technology is one thing, but when you can visualize, when you can visualize what's going on in a way for lay people in the industry or not in the industry to understand, it really helps. So let's jump in and talk about this map that you put out, then why don't you put it up on screen? Yeah? Joe what are you looking at here?

Speaker 3:

I can talk you through it. So this is just a quick overview of what state traceability systems run in each regulated state. So the green is the metric states. They're bar none the top state traceability system. The second runner is biotrack and there's you know, I'll nuance all of this. I'd say this use case of technology is the first in any industry where the regulatory software may have a point of sale option, which, you know, if you're talking, conflicts of interest there can be there. But biotrack is really the only technology with that Dicotomy they deal with, except for MJ freeway which just has Pennsylvania. But this is an overview of what traceability Softwares are foundational in each state. Which really traceability software is the foundation of your cannabis data, your cannabis data program and entire technology stack. So it's a really pivotal piece of technology that's required by regulation but often is the last thing considered when developing a tech stack.

Speaker 2:

And data initiatives. Can, can, we, can. I just ask, like, how did Pennsylvania end up with MJ freeway?

Speaker 3:

like like, Colorado started with it. They switched to metric. Mj freeway was one of the early guys and I don't even think it's going by MJ freeway right now as their traceability, but you know they were, I'd say, one of the last men standing. You know Colorado and others. This I'm gonna be updating, you know, with constant regularity. Illinois is about to switch from biotrack to metric, so this is a live-in breathing animal. But Pennsylvania, you know it was one of the last. I think they signed their medical program. I'm sure when adult use comes there will be some Conversations amongst regulators as to whether these programs are fit for the scale and size of the data that they're gonna have to house and translate. But yeah, it's definitely something that's not Bible. It's, you know, being worked out in real time and the changing regulatory landscapes, of both medical and recreational, often come with it traceability changes.

Speaker 1:

It's so wild, I think, that Not only is metric clearly the winner in terms of owning the most states, but but metric has one in terms of the language people refer to traceability, as is it in metric, or is it not even? In states that don't have metric, so it's almost like and when people say Kleenex and Everything is Kleenex, even though it's actually a tissue, it's the name brand that they're using as the actual thing.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I did. You Tivo it.

Speaker 2:

You know a Company so many moons ago, but still, that's how I think well, I I mean, I have one licensed entity in California and we do have metric, but as an MSO I'm assuming you probably operate in multiple states that have different traceability systems. How does, how does that add complexity to just, I guess, consolidation of resources and all that kind of stuff in within the company?

Speaker 3:

So I mean it touches every facet of your data program and your software stack. So, and you know, the first point is that really you can even have the same State traceability provider metric but the way it translates to the data is Is night and day because of the regulations. So, for example, you know you can have Massachusetts so we'll have like a 20,000 gram batch limit, and Then you go to California and I think it's like five times that. So when you're trying to even just understand the data coming out of the same systems, you have to have really tight first understanding and then validation of these parameters that you can really understand, right when we say this one package ID and that package ID is the 16 digit string that's on the metric tag that you're given from them. But that's the identifier from the state you in the system when you're looking up your own inventory and the actual metric system. This identifier can represent five different things based on how that states regulations are dictated. And and that's where you know the nuance in establishing really good data processes and accuracy is in Like viscerally understanding your data, what it means per state, even if it's, you know, you, a metric, that's the same in two locations like, for example, ohio, you have to have cannabis inventory, the selling limits with the state, like disbursement portal, which is through the Department of Pharmacy. The lot means are done within I think it's 2.53 grams in terms of tents. So you then have to add a classifier on top of what just this one inventory and usually naming conventions can accomplish that. So it's not the end of the world, but you know, doing that without a unified and purposeful direction ahead of time Can just cause you nightmares down the road. Trying to clean up and correlate 20,000 data points. It's the idea of you know your two degrees off course when you start a journey, what that looks like in 10 hours you know that 2% difference will put you To 75 miles off course. So you know what it means. In terms of validations, even using the same traceability systems, you really have to understand the nuance of how that state has expressed their data limitations and requirements Through the traceability software to be able to be sure that your data strategies are cogent and in line with the state system capabilities. So that's just on the use case where they both have metric. Now if you're saying you have Biotrack and metric, you as an enterprise level or you have to correlate these data points. This is where seed to sale providers are essentially acting as Middleware. Yeah, and when I say middleware, you know normally it's your or it can be a data lake, a data warehouse expressed through ETL, extraction, transform and load data pipelines. Other industries see this as one holistic system due to their lack of regulation. But you know you'd say that you'd use either like a duchy or a blaze or one of these tools that sits on top of metric biotrack and what this does is allow you to have the user layer in the same software. So if you have a cultivator that's in Delaware, that's a biotrack state, and a cultivator that's in Massachusetts, as a metric state, they're going to see the same interface and, given your instructions on data handling, sops, training, you're going to ensure that basically, your how-to's are in line with the correlating layers that allow for, you know, any difference. That's in Delaware, say, whether it's we have to create a QA batch that sits in the facility for five years for testing, remediation, whatever, but QA batch in another state, you know that's based on their regulations and biotrack may need QA somewhere in there to identify it within their system, but a QA in Massachusetts may just be an internal identifier to identify batches that aren't for sale and simply were for quality assurance. So you know, everything is the devils in the details, but no more true than in cannabis data. And then all starts at these traceability layers.

Speaker 1:

And so you this is super helpful to understand and think about kind of managing this between states if you're operating in many states. But it sounds like you're also assuming that this middleware provider that you've chosen and you called out two of them and there are others out there that those would be providers that work with both metric and biotrack. And what I've seen from my own exploration of software solutions for companies is that sometimes you might go, you might be in a biotrack state and you might go to try to see if a POS is right for a business and that POS company hasn't yet developed a biotrack integration yet.

Speaker 2:

As an example, yeah, or look at the. I mean one, two, three, four states have decided to build their own.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I'm sure those are just awesome to work with. Oh well so. So within that context, would you say that the choices that you have when you are in and operating in a certain market often has to do with which traceability provider that state is using and if the software available has created the integrations with that system yet, and that maybe, if you're a software provider, you might say all right, I'm just gonna focus on just metric states and I'm gonna get through metric first and then I'll start working on biotrack and then maybe I'll get to those states that are making their own last, or maybe not at all, so that you're way screwed if you're in a state where they're making their own, and so that's where it's sort of twofold, where you can have, you know, the states where they're making their own.

Speaker 3:

It is an opportunity for really small tech providers to be able to create hyper local, bespoke solutions. You know, create POS's that could compete against the big guys because they are targeting this niche group. That's underserved. But as you talk about, you know, basically the seat to sale is system. You know it acts as a middleware, though it may not actually be that middleware. The goal it's accomplishing of creating one single data language to everybody that's using it is accomplishing what a middleware does standardizing your data, normalizing it and allowing the interactions to be uniform. You may have to develop additional middleware and mapping layers on top of these seat to sale providers to accommodate for the nuances that just these systems can't handle they're set up to be able to integrate with the regulatory system, the traceability system, and allow you, as an operator, a way to conduct business in line with regulations. It doesn't mean it's in line with your data needs, and that's where really defining your data needs allows you to assess solutions with far greater accuracy than others, and that's what I'd say if you're in a new state and beginning to assess what tools do I need. It all starts with first, what systems have this existing integration, and not all integrations are built equal. They can say they have an integration, but the devil is in the details. Does it actually function? You want to talk to at least two people running that tool in the same state. It's gonna sound kind of crazy because you're basically asking your competitors, and this is where relationships in software and data and cannabis are almost imperative, because your ability to validate and test things is very limited due to the nature of traceability, where you won't even get your metric system until you get the license. And presumably by the time you get your license and it's been issued, you already have your whole business plan. You're not waiting to put the pieces together until the state says go, you have things in motion, but you really have a hypothesis that doesn't have the validation and you know there's just realities around not being able to validate those hypotheses before you get your state traceability system issued, but when other people have run the same tech stack using the same traceability environment, that can serve as almost your validation layer. What people are willing to reveal to you is, you know, a question in and of itself, but establishing relationships with other operators is really an imperative piece to understanding how traceability acts in reality. Not in you know, description, which one of the issues is. You know the state will describe system as functioning X. You as the operator will go in, do whatever you need, and it does not function as X. It actually functions as Y and it's broken X, y and Z and you relay that to the system being metric biotrack. But it's a strange, strange incentive structure because they're contracted by the state and the state is their client, we're just their user. So the user experience, frankly, is irrelevant if the state client is happy, and that's where it gets really screwy, where, like now, you got to call your senate it. But it is kind of like you have to get almost active to say look, you as a state, that's a representative of us as users to these systems. Here are our biggest pains. I have no ability to hold them to account outside of putting in support tickets and harassing anybody, I know with a metric title in their LinkedIn, but outside of that you really are limited in your ability to affect change there. So a relationship with you know whatever regulatory entity, is helpful, because the reality of it is all of your data is going to be connected and stemming from this traceability and it's one of the biggest Pandora's boxes, and cannabis.

Speaker 2:

Have we seen a state switch from one system to another system? Oh yeah, I mean.

Speaker 3:

Illinois is about to do biogen rumors are but metric in October, november. Keep posting that blog post for updates. But okay, name switched from biotrack to metric. Colorado was MJ freeway to metric. There is definitely a trend in metric winning these bids from others. So I would say there's definitely a front runner and I can't imagine, you know, a federal model going with anybody but the front runner, yeah, and what that looks like, you know, is to be determined. But yeah, it's often that states. And then you know, when they go. Maryland, for example, just went from Recreate, medical to recreational and in that state the product approval process gets more stringent. Where you know, in Massachusetts, you can submit products and create Product masters without the need for approval from regulatory entities. Obviously, you need to pass all the testing requirements, needs to be aligned with regs, but to have a new product available to you in your product master, it doesn't require an approval from regulators and Maryland it does. So you have to submit a photo of your packaging, description of the product, the ingredients, and what that does is, you know, add a delay in your production processes, because if you're now, you have a question mark as to approvals for new products, you have a real question mark in your process and ability to go to market. And I always say, whatever they say, double it, just for safety's sake. You know, I think Maryland is better, I think it's down to like two or three days, but yeah, you know, the same system can function night and day, state to state. So it's, you know, really getting that understanding, and you know you want to Ideally do it alongside a compliance person or paralegal, because it it's the success with traceability is an understanding of the regulations, an understanding of the technical capabilities and then marrying your risk tolerance to those capabilities and you can get in a position where sometimes tech is often driving compliance or vice versa, and you can. I mean it's a recipe for disaster. That's where the collaboration Really allows for your success.

Speaker 1:

I love that you are making light of both the the policy and regulatory aspect of this and also the compliance side, and I think Ben and I both consider ourselves a bit of policy wonks and and this is this is a key point that I think is really important for listeners to understand and especially independent operators that are just getting started and might be thinking about traceability, because I think that there is a misconception sometimes that just by using the traceability Software, you are going to receive some amount of business intelligence, you're going to have insights into your inventory or understand things through their user interface that might be helpful for your business and, joe, what you said about the customer for traceability is really crucial. The customer for traceability is the state, and the state's purpose for creating these traceability systems is to Track and trace all product to ensure that there's no diversion out of the legal market, to Basically create these regulatory layers on operators that make states feel that they have enough insight that the laws are being followed. It is not to create useful tools for operators, unfortunately, and so it is why there are so much there is such a dynamic what Joe called middleware environment of groups that are are Are basically piping the metric or bio track traceability data into other solutions to help Operators learn things about their business and answer questions with data.

Speaker 2:

So in and even just interfacing with these systems, like, oh, because I'm going through this right now, like we were onboarding a new ERP system and it is so bad, it must be so bad. I'm like I'm not the one plugging things in a metric. I never even seen metric, but so shout out to my team but the I Do. What I do know is that oh do, who are working with I don't know if I should be saying this out loud, but they tried to get us to subscribe to a sixty thousand dollar a year plug-in, mearly to communicate with metric, and I was like we made the decision I didn't make the decision because, again, I'm not the one doing it, but we made the decision as a team to not even purchase the, this middleware, because it's like well, hell, sixty thousand dollars, like we'll just have a person a half time on it and and put the information in which you know we do large single batch type things. We're not doing like a bunch of, like individual products. So it makes sense for us, but sixty thousand dollars a year is is the, for me, representative of the pain that these systems represent and and that's ungodly and I think at the core of it is that principle try before you buy.

Speaker 3:

And Cannabis is in a weird space where you really Systems have to be so customized To your need that the ability to try it in a production environment, production being defined as integrated estate. You know, given your actual data environment, it gets really difficult and it's cumbersome, it requires resources. But one of the biggest things is you'll see people you know architect this perfect system and you know this is how data is going to flow from here. Here's the validation layer, here, here's a department responsible. But then they find out it doesn't actually integrate To my state system. And now I'm either facing for this project to move forward I have to foot 60 grand, which is a, you know, entry-level employee that could probably accomplish half of it, if not more, or you know I have to abandon this project that you know we put so much effort behind and it, you know the ability to validate that with other people in production environments, which is what I was kind of talking about, with relationships With others that are running similar tech stacks etc. Really becomes your shield to be able to get far down the road of a project. And you know the the blocker of this project. You can't even find out until you're at the one-yard line and and that's just the structural issue of you don't have access to the state system until you get the license. You're not going to wait to, you know, develop your plan and data initiatives until you get the license. So there's there's an element of faith, this, this cannabis software process that you know you can fill the gap by seeing how others in production environments have been able to handle it and get a pulse on what those problems are before you encounter them. But that's one of the structural issues just around the way traceability gets issued in cannabis business moves.

Speaker 1:

Within traceability. We've been talking a lot about metric and metric. Recently, in the last less than a year ago, hired a new CEO, michael Johnson. He seems to be pretty leadership focused, has gotten out there and spoken with the industry. I've met him on a couple occasions at events and I've read recently that they just acquired a QR code company. I'm just wondering if these massive moves that metric is making, and also their, their lion share of the market already is, is sending a signal of inevitability to states that this is the only path forward and if you think that Within five years, that there won't be any other competitor in the space.

Speaker 3:

I, if politics occurred without corruption, I would bet my life on that. The reality around you know the reason why people have gone with other tools. You can't really run the pro con analysis and understand the reasoning besides maybe someone at a relationship. So I imagine that metric will be the front runner across the board. I think the only thing that could stop that is you know backdoor people having friends at other businesses, which you know there's no shortage of in local politics that governs cannabis, but you know even at these state levels. So that's where I would put my money, but I I'm not holding my breath.

Speaker 2:

Joe is this is an appropriate time to bring up this.

Speaker 3:

I think I'm sure your body that was just getting the Udu Udu implementation done. Yeah exactly like the second image there.

Speaker 2:

Okay, you explain to us for for the listeners, just on audio, like what, what we're looking at here.

Speaker 3:

So I think, it's the meme where there's the gray guy that's looking at the shiny balloon. And the gray guy is canvas data Pros and the shiny balloon is good data and efficient systems, and then he's getting hugged by the purple monster pulling him away from the good data and efficient systems and its state traceability data limitations. And it is just illustrating that you know the best laid plans of mice and men Can't be inked until you validate it against traceability capabilities and limitations. And then I you know you really want to start there and then build out the plan, because you can have a lot of wasted effort the other way around.

Speaker 2:

Amen, yeah, just taking a different direction. Who is doing a good job in the data space like, is there a company out there that you feel is is Kind of creating the gold standard about how about go about doing this?

Speaker 3:

I mean there's hand fulls in terms of technology companies there, people definitely. Let me pause real quick. The resources in cannabis for data problems have only Recently really become an area of focus. I think cannabis experienced a period of success, despite its own, you know, lack of experience, lack of good data practices. You open your doors, you're selling weed, hand over fist and making money up until 2020 or 2021 whatever mid-pandemic, depending on what state year. But I mean Oregon's a great model where they you know the price is super low People are. You know there's been a boom and a bust wave and now you're seeing, you know, either operators have carved out their own niche or people that have actually looked to data to answer a number of their questions, a number of their, you know, really directional questions that allows you to be able to Grow business in the right direction. So there are I hesitate to name you know there are companies that are doing fantastic stuff. I have to shout out my team at Meramed that you know we developed a middleware solution that was able to integrate your payment. You know, your quick books and payment data, your Production data coming out of duchy and take all the data, append it, normalize it. You know, basically we're doing our own ETL pipeline. So you know Kyle Kittlinsky, brandon Basham, steve Signori these guys have been instrumental in getting data initiatives forward. In turn, you know there are a number of all the MSOs are doing Really cool things with data in a variety of capacities. What it looks like under the hood I don't know for sure, but I I can tell you almost every one of them are doing interesting things.

Speaker 1:

You know I know, or are they working with, with enterprise technology companies?

Speaker 3:

So it's you know, there's a wave of new providers coming in that are, you know, I'd say, getting a number of trials with. MSOs. There are big providers, like I know. Some of the big guys have tried to implement Dynamics 365, which is one of the. You know that's a Just Microsoft solution, that's sort of industry agnostic. And then I've heard of people even doing that suite. Or you know oracle solutions that are big, robust. The problem is your Systems have to be as agile and flex up flexible as your production processes. You know, I tend to think some of these bigger solutions Are too clunky to operate at the speed that cannabis iterates at. You know, and this is one of the structural things, we're really like Salesforce as a tool, their one software and they, you as a client. You know you determine how can I use this within my use case, industry type of business, blah, blah, blah. And you maybe work through that with someone internally or an integration team and what they do is come up with your configuration. You're charged for that custom setup and you know they have to maintain one code base. Well, others are configuring it for their needs cannabis technologies in a weird place where you know just what I described around the traceability, the disparate traceability requirements, limitations and capabilities. You know, say you're duchy, building one POS into 50 states, different systems, you're essentially maintaining like 50 different code bases Because that code base is different based on each traceability system. You know Biotrack to metric is to totally different code bases. But even handling metric and mass to metric in Missouri is Is night and day. So you know, I really do feel for the engineers at these software firms and you know cannabis software companies and the engineers trying to make sense of it, doing it bespoke in-house for some of the bigger guys, because it really does. Ye, no Software economics have been challenged the way cannabis software economics have. Software has been high margin. You know money hand over fist forever. But I think cannabis is one of the first places where you don't just build it once and sell it a hundred times. Every time you enter a new market you have to build it again and so you know I know a lot of people have frustrations with you know technology and things. The people building this are put between a rock in a hard place and you know the economics are just 280 and others, obviously software companies don't deal with it. But yeah, it's definitely unique position for technology as a business as Well as technology. You know technology operations To be able to maintain one Universal UI and storefront.

Speaker 1:

You know inventory modules, whatever they're connected to 50 different data sources so, if you so, as someone who is making decisions about Outside software to utilize and implement in a company and also, clearly, creating custom solutions in-house with engineers, what do you think is the the biggest hole in the solutions that are out there that you are hoping For somebody to bring to market on the data and software solution side that you don't have to build yourself?

Speaker 3:

I'm even gonna punt that. I'm gonna punt that back to where I think the biggest problem is. Companies are not they're looking to do. They have engaged in shiny object syndrome where Nobody has paused to develop their strategic goals and what that looks like in terms of real results. You know we want to increase. You know online e-commerce revenue by 45% next year. We want to tackle this, etc. And then you know, have that translated Into a set of goals in a plan, and then you measure solutions against those dark needs a lot of businesses have been defining. There hasn't been a Singular definition of their goals and strategies, so they're just getting solutions Based on what software marketers are telling. You know it's been vendor driven strategy when I do think the success is in. And you know I came from a fintech background before this and this is really your ability to assess any technology solution is Starkly. Define the scope of your needs. You know we're looking for a seed to sail. Go to the cultivation department, meet with every manager and understand what kind of reporting would you like to see day-to-day? That would make your life easier. What are your biggest frustrations, what are your goals? And then you have to have sponsorship at some management level when you want to deal with the users that will be in the system, get their feedback and needs and then boil it down into Whatever you know management layer exists above them into a uniform scope of alright. Here is what we hope to accomplish. This is you know our set of needs now will measure solutions against that and that's how all other industry functions and as cannabis matures, it's as you know. The right operators are functioning. But Without that, you're throwing stuff in a moving target and you need a levy and you need to set that target to be able to best understand how to hit it and when your strategy is changing, based off every new vendor's capability, you get into the shiny object syndrome that can result in you know you've ripped and replaced 12 softwares because Then them accomplished your goal. But you get challenged to ask what was your goal? And it's make everything easy and you're like that's an easy Thing to meet when you're using, you know, non-industry, specific tools. You're not dealing with the nuances of cannabis. So I would really say the best way to assess tools, assess and document your needs and then have you know technology and operations experts. I set the tools against these needs, but that's the way to get Everything documented. Take ego out of the selection process, which is one of the biggest pieces of friction. Is Everybody in a business get you know people have egos. It's the reality. Being a human and you don't want people, you know opposing a tool that will fit your need just because they didn't bring it up. So you want to, as a technology professional, get everyone to buy into what the need is and Then, as you bring solutions everybody's had a chance to give their input on what it looks like and you're just bringing Solutions to what the vision they already created and I think a lot of technology experts can get you know. Very similarly, you know Thinking they're the greatest gift to earth and you know I'll be able to fix and know all your needs as an ERP. And that's an equally treacherous trap because You'll never know what some cultivator needs. You'll never know what a lab production guy needs and Assuming it is the first way to really inflame these frictions and get them to a point where data can't succeed and software will.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I, as someone who, before Odu, was onboarding another ERP system, that actually we never officially declared victory, we just decided to shift off again, which was a very painful decision as a business leader. I Don't know if this is as big of a problem these days because, well, venture capital has largely left the room for a lot of early-stage Software startups, but I do remember being lured by a number of young, smaller software companies that were trying to solve a critical problem and you know that the allure was like oh, we get to be in touch with the, with development team and the founders and they will Custom build for us. And it was this hybrid of like an enterprise software with like a custom build middleware. And, yeah, I Don't know if that ever ends well. So I'm just I guess this is a word of caution to people listening be like, if you find yourself talking to the CEO and the CTO and they're selling you this like we can do it for you. Just just proceed with caution and validate validate, validate.

Speaker 3:

Try to talk to three existing customers, you know, go through the process of Validating what everybody's telling you. And I'm not saying you know, assume people are lying. But this is easily the least understood software landscape and data landscape that exists, and often the people that are making decisions for tools rarely have a background in software development, software implementation and there's a whole slew of things that you may not have noticed that just talking to somebody who would run the same stack would Illuminate you to, especially if you don't have that sort of experience installing and maintaining and developing tech stacks, it really becomes imperative for you to be able to hit that mark. Because yeah, it's, it's a big beast, it's resource intensive and the thought of, you know, wasting those resources really kills you as an early startup.

Speaker 1:

I Hear what both of you guys are saying and at the same time I'll play doubles advocate for just a sec and say that. I think that, while strategy is critically important and businesses should use goals and clarity to drive their Solution decisions, I also am talking to entrepreneurs and founders that are coming up with solutions and ideas to innovate in the space when it comes to enabling technology in new ways, be it with AI or or just automation in general, that can and support kind of a hybrid goal that you could just say is efficiency or Moving towards profitability, but it might not be something that that any of the three of us set out to look for specifically and and I think that this comes a lot with In retail environments when we're looking at different types of inventory or ordering solutions or loyalty or or be a kind of all different things that that help us interact with customers and new ways. So I Want to still just come with a with a air of hope and optimism that there are still new things on the horizon that people are saying, yeah, they might not be there yet, but we should still be looking at them because we might be surprised with how I've used small.

Speaker 3:

You know. I've used two person companies that have built software that has blown out 500 person bloated businesses. You know it really is. That's why I say validate, try before you buy. I've had single founders whose tech have blown out massive companies. You answer it on a trial. But you know, I completely agree, it's not nothing's uniform, and especially in a industry evolving this quickly. You know the Kings rise and fall very quickly, so you know and the if you can just pulse, check them and really test it, it does help. And one of the things is, you know, I'd say, if you're tasked with Understanding or if you're tasked with some sort of technology initiative mainly around software, I would say your three pillars are functionality, uptime, insecurity, and what functionality boils down to is everything you describe user convenience, efficiencies, automations. Efficiencies and automations kind of dive in. But then you have these sub layers to each and having criteria of which to judge against does help smooth the Conversation of multiple people into one language, which is one of the challenges of getting multi department initiatives across the finish line. It's easy to get them started, it's hard to get them done and I really think that's one of the areas where you know you can cut out and Unify different departments that may not speak this language by just documenting. You know it may not be a stark goal, for we need efficiency, but those are what we assess all tools off of, and this one has an eye towards efficiency, and then you can add that to your strategic goals. You know where we are still seeing things from vendors that we hadn't thought of before. And don't think, just because you don't live and breathe Software data, you're not capable of adding them into a meaningful strategy. It may not be generated from you as you're sitting there writing it on paper, but you want to see all strategy as a living, breathing animal that, as you get more feedback, you improve on and Don't hesitate to. You know, as you see tools that align with initiatives that you may not have focused on, to refocus them. But as you are in a bigger org which I'm speaking for bigger guys Communicating that across the org is essential to just keep people from feeling Left out, maintaining by in reducing churn that as you update. All right, you know now we are looking much more to efficiency, etc that you distribute it to the people who may have relationships, contacts or understanding of efficiencies that they can bring, for you know, a multi-department assessment.

Speaker 1:

Amazing. Well, I think that this is a perfect time to move it to our last call, and this is the ending of our show, where we give you, joe, our guest, an opportunity to make a last impression. Whatever you want a plug for your business, a call to action it's your choice. So, joe, what is your last call?

Speaker 2:

Maybe a reveal some top secret information coming in a few weeks. I already.

Speaker 3:

I already revealed my top secret karaoke pic. But you know, I'd say one of the biggest things is cannabis software and data. Success is rooted in understanding and it is very. You have to get the boring stuff right your data naming conventions, your structures, your Validations to be able to do the really sexy stuff like AI, like automations, like efficiencies. But one of the things is cannabis can often get in Eyes that are bigger than its stomach. You really need to assess Do you have the resources to put a tool like this in? And then the biggest thing is just your current data of the capabilities to see the value from a tool like this. And Often you know, talking to friends and others in the industry, you find these great tools but you realize the data that would power it easy. It doesn't have the capabilities to reveal these insights. So I always say get the boring done well, get the boring done well, and then you can really do all the sexy stuff. And you know I kind of that's the purpose of the how-to cannabis data blog is covering you know the nuances that you know you won't read in textbooks. That applies to cannabis data and cannabis software how it hits each, each business unit, each data layer. And, yeah, keep your eyes peeled for an announcement from how to cannabis data suit Amazing.

Speaker 2:

All right. Well, thank you so much. Joe is really great at having you on the show and array always, always a pleasure catching up with you. All right, that was it. As we wrap up, remember that the dialogue doesn't have to end here and we invite you to continue these conversations and we'd love to hear your thoughts. Who would you like to see on the show? What topics would you like to have us cover? We are immensely Grateful to have you in our audience, like Claudia Mercado, for suggesting a Cyclone dot tech. I'm gonna have to check that out. Cic I C L O dot tech. That was one of the suggestions in the comments. Definitely join us. Let us know what you think. This, this is here. We're here for you. Your engagement encourages us to keep bringing you these thought-provoking conversations. If you've enjoyed this episode, please like, subscribe and share high spirits with your colleagues, your friends, share it with the fam. As we send you off, remember to always stay curious, stay informed and, most importantly, keep your spirits high until next time. That's the show, peace.

Insights on Cannabis Industry Traceability
State Traceability Systems and Cannabis Data
The Challenges of Cannabis Product Approval
Cannabis Data Systems Challenges and Potential
Cannabis Software Challenges and Considerations
Software and Data Understanding's Importance