The Wadsworth Center in Albany, home of the New York Department of Health’s main lab for testing cannabis.

Multiple cannabis cultivators in New York state are reporting long delays for product testing, often two weeks and sometimes as long as four weeks. In addition, the state’s seed-to-sale tracking system for medical cannabis patients has on multiple occasions locked out operators from checking patient status, resulting in maybe thousands of patients turned away from dispensaries.

“Over the past few weeks, we’ve had to turn away nearly 1,000 patients due to patient verification issues with the BioTrack system. These are patients who openly tell us that they’re better off going to the unregulated retailer down the street,” said Jeremy Unruh, senior vice president for public and regulatory affairs for PharmaCann.

There is no mandated seed-to-sale tracking system in New York, but state regulators, and all Registered Organizations [ROs] use BioTrackTHC for tracking. The state’s tracking difficulties began when it chose to require BioTrackTHC to build a custom system, rather than the company’s regular, off-the-shelf product used in other states. 

As operators require new features, such as compatibility with new point of sale systems, regulators have been on the hook to pay for updates to the custom system, Grown In was told. The cost of adding these new features has added up quickly, and New York regulators have balked at paying for the updates. Those internal conflicts and needs for updates are what ultimately led to BioTrack freezing out operators from checking medical patient status, say sources.

Asked about problems with seed-to-sale tracking, the Office of Cannabis Management did not deny that a custom-built system was the cause.

“We understand that some patients have experienced issues with the web-based registration system, and we are actively working on a long-term solution,” said Trivette Knowles, spokesman for OCM. “Meanwhile, we have recently developed a pathway that will ensure all patients continue to have access to medical cannabis. Any patient who receives an error when attempting to register online should e-mail and our registration team will assist them in getting registered manually.”

In addition, as the state ramps up for adult-use sales later this year, far from all currently licensed cannabis cultivators are producing at full-tilt, say multiple sources. Potentially jeopardizing future licensed adult use dispensaries’ ability to provide enough product for their shelves.

Although New York has ten ROs, not all are actually cultivating, say operators. Currently, Curaleaf, PharmaCann, Columbia Care, and Vireo are operating large cultivation and processing facilities, say cannabis insiders. Etain and Acreage are also operating smaller cultivation facilities. The other ROs, iAnthus/Be, Medmen, Cresco/Sunnyside, and Green Thumb Industries/Rise, are reportedly purchasing their product wholesale from other ROs, and often repackaging them under their own label.

Just as the Cannabis Control Board announced new rules for adult use testing last week, already operating medical cultivators say the cost of slow testing and extra fees adds up quickly. Some cultivators may have as many as 15 batches out for testing at one time, while one batch could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. As a comparison, last week lab operators in Michigan told Grown In that their testing process typically takes four days. That means millions of dollars of product could be unnecessarily stuck in New York’s testing pipeline.

“The turnaround time right now is unacceptable from an operational perspective, if we had additional labs so we’re not waiting 3 to 4 weeks, we could be waiting a shorter period of time., said one representative of a Registered Organization, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution from state regulators. “Net, getting product quicker to patients is the priority!”

New York has only three approved labs for medical testing, and the largest lab is a Department of Health-operated laboratory in Wadsworth, New York. Because there are so few approved labs, prices also tend to be higher than testing in other states, about $1,000 more per test, said one director of compliance for a Registered Organizations, who requested their name be withheld to avoid retribution from labs. 

“Expanding access to and supporting the medical cannabis program has been a priority of the Office of Cannabis Management and the Cannabis Control Board since we got started in October when at its very first meeting, the Board reduced costs by allowing the sale of whole flower and expanded the types of providers who can certify patients, among other changes. We are reviewing and considering the best path forward for the expansion of registered organizations, and focusing efforts on bringing additional labs online,” said OCM’s Knowles.


Editor Mike is a co-founder and the editor of Grown In, a U.S. national cannabis industry newsletter and training company. His career has taken him from Capitol Hill to Chicago City Hall, from...