Making Cannabis Compliance Easy with RFID – Michael Pavlak CEO of StashStock

In the legal cannabis space, compliance is one of the most important things to consider for plant-touching operators. This often includes deploying track-and-trace tools to maintain records of plants from seed to sale. 19 states and counting utilize METRC for their legal marijuana industries and while the platform is indeed useful, it often falls short of providing the most efficient tools for cannabis professionals.

StashStock is a third-party integrator for the METRC system that focuses on RFID-based solutions to ensure cultivators maintain compliance with state regulations for growing cannabis. With a full suite of solutions including an RFID scanner, integrated scales, and a reporting and analytics tool, StashStock offers an extra layer of convenience and efficiency for grows of all sizes.

Discover the benefits of the StashStock platform, learn what sets the StashStock apart, and what’s ahead in this exclusive Leafwire Q&A with Co-founder and CEO Michael Pavlak.

Leafwire:  How did StashStock come to be?

Michael Pavlak:  I have been a software engineer for about 15 years. I also grew (cannabis) for ten years under Michigan’s Caregiver Act. I worked with several patients during that time and met other cannabis professionals in the industry. I began to learn of compliance frustrations; similar to what I had been facing myself. In turn, I decided that instead of growing cannabis for patients, I would work on software to solve compliance pain-points for cultivators big and small. Mind you, this was even before METRC went into effect here in Michigan.

In addition to learning about cultivators’ struggles, I was also home invaded about 6 years ago and the culprits were after my grow. This prompted me to get involved on the cannabis software side, instead of growing, due to safety concerns. The timing to move into another area of Cannabis just seemed right for me.  We actually looked at Weedmaps and Leafly first, as our platform was similar in that it featured where you can find cannabis in your local area, see who’s carrying what, view menus, offer the ability to bring in patients, etc. 

Then, METRC came to Michigan in 2016. When we noticed that METRC requires RFID tags on all their plants, we looked around the industry and said, “Well, no one’s providing a solution to use these RFID tags — why not let us do that?” We decided to pivot away from retail solutions and into cultivation solutions, specifically leveraging those RFID tags that are on all the metric plants.

LW:  Why should operators deploy your solutions?

MP:  The METRC system itself is a relatively simple tracking system. But there are a lot of nuances involved. If you’re managing 10,000 plants, you have to report on each of those, whether they’re vegging, flowering, or being harvested.

That’s a lot of overhead for cultivators. When I moved 500 plants, telling the system which 500 plants moved into a new room or a new phase can be extremely, extremely time-consuming. Using our tools, an operator can do an audit of, say, a 500 plant room in less than five minutes. We can tell you exactly what’s in there and if there is anything unexpected. A manual audit, with either a barcode scanner or physical tag checking with a list, could take all day. We took an event that took all day and brought it down to five minutes. That’s really where the power is because you are required to have these tags anyways — we’re just unlocking their full potential.

LW:  What has the reception been from the industry?

MP:  We see a few different phases of the industry and the response to our tools. When we started with Michigan, we wanted to make sure that we could deploy and scale so we only were selling to Michigan-based companies.  This allowed us to go on-site to troubleshoot anything that came up. It was also when the industry was starting to ramp up in Michigan. 

Upfront, it was actually a little bit difficult because the market was new, and many people didn’t understand how the tools fit into the picture. As the market evolved and matured, it became much easier to have that conversation. For instance, when we go to Colorado, where they’ve been operating for 10 years now, we show them our tools and hear responses like, “I need this! Where has this been for the last eight years?!” They’ve experienced all the pain and headache of the required tracking, they understand the benefit of our tools. 

Michigan is typical for market response when they’re first starting. People don’t really understand what they need to do or how much effort it’s going to be.  As that market matures and a few people get some experience under their belt, it becomes an eye-opener for them and they understand how useful the tools can be.

LW: Your two main products are the CannaScale and the CannaScanner. Can you describe these tools in a bit more detail and the corresponding app?

MP:  We’ve taken an approach of a very modular toolset, meaning they can be deployed independently. If you were only looking to improve your harvest time and effort, we would deploy the RFID-enabled CannaScale and use the RFID scanner when logging the plants. You can also use a barcode scanner, or manual entry.  There’s always a way to manually enter if needed. Effectively, you put the plant on the scale, it’ll log your plant weight, you scan the tag, and our software will associate the correct plant with the logged weight. 

When you’re harvesting cannabis plants, all the plants within a harvest batch must be the same strain, per METRC. Sometimes a team can be chopping down a room, and they’ll have a staging area where all the chopped and not yet weighed plants are stored. The scale operator is taking a plant, weighing it, logging it in, and then progressing it to the next stage in the process. At that point, the scale is also doing an audit and saying, “Hey, you have completed 50 out of 100 plants so far in this room of this strain,” or “Hey, this plant that you just scanned is not a Cherry Bomb, and you were just harvesting Cherry Bomb. You might want to handle this plant differently.” 

CannaScale is going to do all the safety checks in real time to make sure that at the end of your harvest you understand if you actually harvested all your plants and whether they were all the same strain.  If you need to have multiple strains active at once we can manage that for you in the app as well. 

If you have a really large grow sometimes one scale is just not enough. Those operators can use two, three, or four scales in tandem, and it will create one master harvest for them so they don’t have to worry about “this strain has to go into this scale, all of that strain has to go to that scale” — it doesn’t matter. The StashStock system will bring it all together and give them a report at the end that says “these are all the plants that were harvested, and the strains that those plants fall into”. It’s an extremely useful tool that just about anyone can immediately realize the value and it’s very easy to drop into any process. 

LW:  What about the CannaScanner?

MP:  CannaScanner has more features to learn, but once they’ve mastered it, it’s their best friend. Essentially, the tool does auditing. I can go room to room and say “Okay, I’m in Flower Room One” and the device will know what’s supposed to be in there. As you’re going through and scanning that room, the device will tell you, “I found 190 out of 200 plants that are supposed to be in here. And I see three that aren’t supposed to be in here.” It will also tell you what plants are missing and some key details that may help you find them. 

There’s a “finder” feature that will act as a metal detector. Let’s say you have an incorrect plant in your room. You can lock onto that plant and as you walk around the room, it’ll tell you how close you are to it, you can zoom into it and deal with that one oddball plant. And again, doing something like that manually or with a barcode scanner could be an all-day event, right? Manually checking tags, especially if they’re under a mesh, or in a multi-tier system just takes an unreasonable amount of time. 

We have other value add tools, like a sales and fulfillment module that lets you track your sales, what needs to be repackaged, what inventory is actually available for sale based on pending orders, all that kind of stuff. That is the extension to METRC — we do things that METRC doesn’t.

LW:  Do you have any exciting things you’re working on releasing?

MP:  We’re looking to extend our sales into a wholesale marketplace similar to LeafLink, The Trade, APEX or any of those kinds of marketplaces where you as a cultivator can list your product for dispensaries to purchase. We also have a lightweight version for processing where you can track sales and fulfillment, recipes, and costing, as well as do audits. METRC doesn’t track edible recipes down to each ingredient. Now you can see “This manufacturer actually has a pesticide in this flavoring, and it’s causing my test to fail, now I know what to recall.” We’re looking at making that a bit more robust. 

Those are the two big things we have on the agenda for this year. As we work on this new feature set, we have hopes to also add a dispensary component. Right now you can use our tool in the dispensary for weekly inventory auditing, but we want to expand our capabilities.

LW:  What advice do you have for new operators getting into the space?

MP: I have a few things. First off, build a good team. I see a lot of places maybe go a little bit cheap on their employees or not really focus on finding motivated, passionate, high-performing people. Secondly, is to learn. Learn from others in the cannabis space – continue adapting as the industry adapts. Oh, and make sure you stay compliant!  Those three things combined, I think, really make or break being profitable or not. 

The last thing I would say is branding. I think a lot of companies don’t focus on building their brand and using that as a differentiator. A lot of companies will make a wholesale product and not try to strategically position themselves in different dispensaries or really make their brand something that people are looking for. 

If you’re doing those four things right, you’re way ahead of the game.

LW:  What else should Leafwire readers know about StashStock?

MP: One of the biggest things we focus on is customer service and we’re one of the oldest players in the game. There are not many companies that have been doing this longer than us — there are not many companies that utilize RFID technology in general. 

When we talk to our customers, we frequently hear feedback like, “you’ve changed my life for the better.” We are fundamentally shifting how they’re managing their grow, and the effort required to do compliance-related tasks. We provide the confidence at the end of the day that everything is right; they KNOW they are compliant. A lot of people who come onboard with us are starting from a shaky platform.  They don’t know if their compliance data is actually accurate. And when we come in and baseline them, it’s a huge relief. “I finally know that I’m compliant. And I have a way to keep it compliant. And if anything happens, I know I can fix it.” This is the feedback we hear on a regular basis and this is the feedback StashStock strives for.

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