The state is still working without a fully functioning pot tracking system, a year after glitches in this same system brought Washington's pot industry to a standstill. The state’s software vendor is now being charged a $3,750 daily penalty for failing to provide a fully functioning version of the long-promised software.
And the state might not even get the fully functioning software by the Dec. 31 deadline, a full 14 months after the software company was originally supposed to deliver the product, according to Brian Smith, a spokesperson for the LCB.
“The system is scheduled to [be] fully implemented by Dec. 31, 2018. However, that deadline may be pushed out,” Smith said in an e-mail. “As we’ve communicated with licensees, the [latest] Nov. 6 contracted deadline was missed. The LCB will apply liquidated damages.”
The state has used pot tracking software, often referred to as a seed-to-sale-database, since the beginning of the legal market in 2014 to track sales in the entire pot industry, down to individual grams of flower. The state's first vendor, BioTrack THC, did not apply to renew their contract, and the state's first replacement choice, Franwell, backed out of the deal. That left the state with Denver-based MJ Freeway to run the system.
MJ Freeway is now an entire year late on its deadline to deliver fully functioning cannabis tracking software. The company failed to meet their first Nov. 1, 2017 deadline and, with the old software system gone, the state was forced to implement a contingency plan that left some pot companies tracking their legal pot by hand.
The contingency plan wreaked havoc on the state’s pot industry, with pot farmers unable to send their products to retailers and shop owners stocking up on products out of fear that they would run out before the state could fix the problem.
MJ Freeway missed its second Jan. 1, 2018 deadline, and didn't roll out their "Leaf Data Systems" until Feb. 1, 2018. The new system was full of bugs and problems, and should not have been released, according to a recent report by Gartner Consultants, which was commissioned by the state; the Gartner report said the state "went live with a solution that would have failed typical tests" and had 160 known bugs when it was launched in February. As of June 2018, 400 total bugs had been identified in the system, which Gartner currently refers to as "unstable."
Smith said the state was forced to launch the system in February because small pot businesses "were being crippled" by the state's contingency plan.
"Ultimately, the LCB Traceability Steering Committee had to weigh the impacts to the industry against launching a software system with defects, and the decision was made to launch the system even with some imperfections and additional coding needed," Smith said in an e-mail.
MJ Freeway's software is still repeatedly failing tests. The state is asking the company to wait to deliver a new update until it is fully functional and free from bugs, according to LCB Deputy Director Pat Kohler.
“We’re really kind of pushing back a little bit. Before they can give us another build we want the issues addressed because what we end up doing is the vicious cycle of keep testing and then it ends up failing,” Kohler said at an Oct. 31 board meeting, according to an audio recording of the meeting. “If they really want to get done at a certain time they need to get a quality product so when we do the testing it’s done.”
Smith said the system is currently working, despite all of the bugs.
"Even though the system is operational there is still work on the project that needs to be completed. We have revised the schedule based on the known defects and have multiple releases schedule between now and year’s end," Smith said in an e-mail.
The Gartner report lays blame on both the state and MJ Freeway for the system's failure. The reports states that the state failed to fully communicate expectations for the software, and "inconsistent understanding of configurability between the vendor and the State remains an issue."
The report said that MJ Freeway failed to use best security practices and points out the company had to propose "a new project software development plan" three months after the software's initial troubled launch. Gartner said MJ Freeway relies heavily on "a largely remote development team" with developers in Belarus and across the United States.
The Gartner Report offered two options for moving forward: the state could continue working with MJ Freeway, or consider cancelling the project all together. The consultants pointed out that MJ Freeway’s engineers may “not be able to improve the quality of software delivery,” so the report advised that the state's best option might be to just cancel the contract and find a new company "with the requisite experience."
The state is now collecting penalties until they can get a fully functioning system, according to Smith.
"The LCB will apply liquidated damages. We’re assessing that with our contracts manager now," Smith said.