LeafData is Out and CCRS is In.
The WSLCB announced on 2021-08-27 that they would be moving away from LeafData to their own agency designed and built custom system called Cannabis Central Reporting System or "CCRS". The announcement included these claims as logical reasons for this approach.
- Leaf is not sustainable
- Previous rushed replacements were not successful
- A modified version of the central reporting solution previously built and shelved for contingency purposes is being modified and will be used going forward.
BLUF: LeafData goes away in December; real-time lab results and real-time b2b data goes away; manual-data-entry madness ensues; accessibility, integrity and transparency are greatly impacted.
LeafData Crash Course
LeafData is the web-based cannabis tracking system currently in use in Washington state. All cannabis businesses put their required seed-to-sale, track-and-trace data into this system. All B2B transactions are entered as well as all retail sales. All of this information is flowing in near real time.
While the system is not perfect there are many benefits to this type of system. Businesses use it to electronically send product detail around which saves error prone data entry. This is also true for the lab results, which are required by law. And this system allows all interested parties to see this information in a mostly up to date way. The information is with the LCB, the Seller and the Buyer in a mostly smooth way.
A secondary benefit of this system is its transparency. A result of this current centralised systems is data dumps, used by sites such as 502 Data, Headset, Top Shelf Data and our own data portal. Other interested parties (eg: reporters, bloggers, academic researchers) have also used this data to produce insightful analysis of the conditions of the industry.
There are a few others. Licensees who don't want to use dedicated software can use the web-portal provided by the state. And for the third-party software providers (at least a dozen), they only have to integrate to one system.
A prime reason that LeafData is not sustainable is that it has been intentionally neglected. The vendor (Akerna, MJ Platform, MJ Freeway) had a delayed and troubled rollout in 2018. There were some dramatic fixes directly after the rollout which ended with deployement of version 1.37.5 in July 2019. At the time there were plans for future revisions but due to signifigant issues with 1.37.5 those were put on indefinite hold. Since then there have been zero updates to the system.
The LCB determined that LeafData was infact broken but, not too broken to use. It mostly worked. For the parts that didn't work we mostly knew how those worked (or didn't) as well. Then the LCB blessed an enormous list of work-arounds for their known-to-be-broken-in-some-ways system.
The LCB didn't trust their vendor to deploy another release without causing major issues. They were afraid to even try. Akerna surely wasn't going to volunteer, they were already paid, would continue to be paid on this contract, and busy with Pennsylvania.
The LCB has been limping along with this system since then. It's not entirely broken, it's not getting better and nobody is even trying.
When LeafData failed to deploy on-time in 2017 and had a disaster of a launch in 2018 the WSLCB was full of excuses. Blaming the short-time to deliver, pressure, the previous vendor, the third party integrators, malicious hackers, etc. The original deployment date for LeafData, defined in April 2017 (I think) was scheduled for Oct 31st 2018 - about six months. But that date slipped a few times to finally launch in Feb 2019 - three months late.
Naturally, for this roll-out they've planned for December 2021 -- about four months. Brilliant.
Modified Previous Contingency System
This is the system the LCB came up with at the last minute in Oct 2018. We were all to use CSV files, and try our best to keep track of serial numbers of plants, lots, etc. And we'd all upload them to box.com. This situation was widely viewed as an unmitigated disaster.
The LCB completely lost any handle on the seed-to-sale data they did have. With the loss of the central electronic data system the B2B deals and Lab Results all failed over to manual entry. At the last minute, the previous vendor (BioTrack) jumped in and ran a (for-profit) central-reporting-system -- it was actually the same one we were using literally the day before - just not under LCB control anymore.
For three months LCB had no data. Only a private vendor did, BioTrackTHC, with their "UCS" (Universal Compliance Solution (or something)) They could be credited with "saving" the industry, or at least a lot of suffering. But not everyone whet to that BioTrack/UCS, so there was some small experience with type of reporting but, not much.
The Future with CCRS
The Cannabis Can't Remember Shit system is scheduled to be deployed in December 2021. This is four months from the announcement and six months before the contract-renewal-deadline in June 2022. As of the announcement there are T-126 calendar days for deployment. The next information drop is on Sept 8 (T-114 days).
So far there are zero technical docs, we were told we'd get them before a meeting on September 8th. However, we know from the previous contingency system, and they've said as much with this recent announcement was going to be CSV based. CSV is widely known to be the worst possible way for data interchange. All previous data processing was done with JSON, since the beginning in Washington it's been JSON. So, now we're taking a huge step back.
CCRS Removes Data Integrity
A result of using such a garbage format for data-interchange the LCB will not (this is a prediction) have a good, comprehensive picture like they did before, and do currently. The contingency system from 2017 did not have real-time data. That is, this will be a step backwards for their own data analysis purposes.
With the old (BioTrack & LeafData) methods it was possible to get a complete data dump from the State. This will no longer be possible (well, unless the State assembles all the CSVs into one master system and will export that (I think that is not likely)).
This appears to be a step backwards from the recommendations by the Office of the Washington State Auditor "JLARC" report from 2018 ("Improving Cannabis Risk Management Tools Using Business Transaction Data")
CCRS Removes Data Transparency
With the access to comprehensive data removed then we'll all lose access to an excellent data-resource. The free-data sites will suffer a little, as they depend (in part) on this free data for their reporting services. The private-data sites will, naturally, have an increased value position -- since they are sourcing from private data feeds.
Nobody will a have clear picture for effective Product Recalls since the data will be disorganized and scattered across multiple locations. Researchers, media, bloggers will no longer be able to drill down into the specifics underlying this state's regulated cannabis market.
CCRS Removes Reporting Accessibility
All of the businesses that depended on the hosted web-interface for their reporting, a service provided at the behest of the State, will go away. Services will be taken away from citizens. The smaller operators who relied on this state-provided system will be stuck.
CCRS Removes Any Lab Result Tracking
The current (and previous) systems allowed the LCB to monitor lab results. All this data was moved electronically and everyone in the industry depends on this. These lab results are required by law to be part of the compliance records for everyone. It appears there will be significantly more manual-data-entry on the part of the lab operators as well as anyone receiving these lab results.
On more than on occasion research from the public data has shown light on possible discrepancies in the lab data and laboratory behaviour.
CCRS Removes B2B Data Transfer Benefits
Currently 100% of the licensees depend on the LCB/LeafData system to transmit and receive information on their B2B deals. This data includes: delivery times, lot IDs, product, lab results, units and pricing information. Once the real-time central system is gone, this will all have to be done manually. Unless of course, all the integrators (more than a dozen) can agree on some core specifications (we have a suggestion)
Disruption like this nearly always results in a market shake-up, which resolves through an attrition / consolidation phase. However these processes are slow, so they are difficult to quantitify -- one has to pay attention for a long time. This change will (very likely, in my opinion) have effects felt for as much as 18 months.