What is Seed-to-Sale Tracking?

The cannabis industry is chock-full of terms that can be confusing to those with little knowledge or experience. Full spectrum oil, delta-8, THCV, live resin, rosin — the list goes on and on. One that you’ve probably heard thrown around is “seed to sale tracking.” But what does that actually mean? 

In the simplest of terms, seed-to-sale tracking is exactly what it sounds like: an inventory management process and tracking software by which cannabis plants are marked, recorded, and followed from cultivation all the way to customer or patient purchase. This allows licensees, regulators, and law enforcement to ensure that there is a safe and legal cannabis supply chain at all times.

“Without seed-to-sale tracking, the quality of the cannabis products on the market would be considerably lower and potentially dangerous,” explains Pieter Hoolboom, Advisor to Cannabis Community College’s “Compliance Essentials” course and Regulatory Affairs Attorney at Holistic Industries. “Seed-to-sale tracking alleviates the cannabis industry from further scrutiny that it already receives.”

This practice can be complicated, so let’s get into the nitty-gritty to fully understand how seed-to-sale tracking software works and why it’s an integral part of all legal cannabis businesses and their efforts to stay compliant.

What is Metrc?

The Metrc system was developed in Colorado in 2011 and has since become the most successful regulatory cannabis system in the whole world. Metrc stands for marijuana enforcement reporting compliance, and they utilize radio-frequency identification — or RFID tags — to track and trace cannabis with extreme efficiency. 

There are other software systems that accomplish this same goal, but Metrc serves more than 300,000 users across 19 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam. This includes everyone from growers to manufacturers to law enforcement. Metrc ensures every step of cannabis cultivation is well-regulated and transparent across the board. 

Using their own words, Metrc’s advanced proprietary system enables tracking, tracing, trending, and reporting. Tracking allows for visibility of regulatory events in real-time for all license types. Tracing allows regulators to navigate back to the product source if there’s an issue and, if necessary, place a system-wide hold on that product. 

Trending enables Metrc to assess risk, monitor compliance, identify taxable events, and evaluate public policy. Finally, reporting exists to brief stakeholders, construct cases, and make aggregate data available to the public.

Before we get into an example of how the process works from start to finish, let’s take a brief look at a few other companies that provide seed-to-sale tracking software for legal cannabis.

Popular Seed to Sale Software Providers

If you’re working in a plant-touching part of the cannabis industry, you’re going to need to be familiar with some of the most popular seed to sale software providers.


BioTrack was founded in 2010 and now operates in seven countries, which predates Metrc by a full year. This makes BioTrack tried, tested, and one of the most experienced seed-to-sale tracking systems in the marijuana business. They also provide point-of-sale solutions for dispensaries. However, BioTrack was built with legacy technology, so the industry continues to shift and change in a way that doesn’t often align with BioTrack’s abilities. Regardless, BioTrack is a fantastic service for cannabis production and cultivation processing.


Founded in 2017, Flourish is on the newer side of sale-to-seed software but stands out for its incredibly user-friendly UI. Flourish recognized that cannabis was about to turn into a massively profitable industry, but lacked any sophisticated growth structure. Coming from supply chain analytics and process improvement projects, Flourish aims to align its background with the burgeoning cannabis industry’s needs. The rest is history.


Canix is just a little different from other tracking software. They provide vertically integrated software for businesses that need solutions across multiple departments. This means it’s exceptionally customizable, remarkably specific, and regularly allows quick modifications. The only real drawback for Canix is that it doesn’t have a solution for dispensaries at the moment, but it is new, so it very well could soon.

How Does Colorado Track From Seed to Sale?

To get a better understanding of how seed-to-sale tracking actually works, let’s take a look at one of the more mature cannabis markets that use Metrc: Colorado. Most of this can be applied to any given state, but it’s easier to understand when examined granularly. 

To reiterate, seed-to-sale tracking is an inventory control system that follows a specific plant, or batch of plants, from cultivation to sale. First, plant and/or package tags are printed and customized for a cannabis licensee, then shipped to them. These tags are part of the RFID system and look similar to regular barcodes, except they’re integrated into a larger cloud-based system. Other software uses 16-digit codes, but Metrc’s RFID tech is more advanced and supports more information.

Once the tags arrive, licensees can assign them to the specific plants or seeds they want to follow. Hence the “seed” part of “seed to sale.” Metrc’s RFID tags utilize blockchain-equivalent tech, so they hold data like status, tracking, product origin, serial number, location information, and more. Every plant is easily identifiable with these tags, which stay connected to the plant until harvesting.

Once the plant’s harvested and turned into buds for the market or a cannabis-derived product, it’s packaged and another Metrc package tag is attached to ensure supply chain continuity. Next, the tagged cannabis products go out for transportation so regulators, licensees, and others can keep track of their location. 

Finally, the product arrives at a dispensary where it’s sold to recreational and medical marijuana users. Each sale is also recorded using the Metrc tag, which allows for detailed financial reports for managers, the Department of Revenue, and everyone in between. And with this, the “sale” part seed to sale is reached.

Seed-to-Sale tracking—a crucial piece of cannabis compliance

Now that you have a better understanding of seed to sale and why it’s important, you can begin to wrap your mind around the complexities of cannabis distribution and regulatory compliance. These processes change and refine themselves almost every day, so be sure to educate yourself to stay up to date.

“The most successful operators in the industry train their employees on the importance of compliance, and even hire specialists and sometimes attorney’s in order to meet all the requirements to operate a cannabis business,” Hoolboom added. “The cannabis industry is a fun and cool place to work, but there will always be rules that must be followed in order to be successful.”

To learn more about cultivation, distribution, and compliance, check out our 5-course Essentials Bundle.