Amid the din of this year’s presidential election, voters in nine states had the chance to decide whether they wanted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Eight said “yes,” joining three others and the District of Columbia, not to mention the 29 total states that now allow the legal use of cannabis for medical reasons.
No matter where you stand on the issue, there is no question that marijuana’s place in our society is changing. Many feel that weed will be used and treated much like alcohol is today, requiring--as with the beer, wine and liquor industry—tight oversight and regulation. But the marijuana industry is also very different, which means that new products and processes will need to be developed for it.
Enter FlowHub, a point-of-sale and compliance technology designed to meet the unique needs—and future growth--of pot retailers, bud tenders and growers.
FlowHub’s capabilities include the ability to:
- Create a global catalog of products, suppliers, and strains
- Apply discounts, including automatic and product-specific discounts
- Create reports of any data, in any order
FlowHub, which works on most existing hardware, is also compliant with Metrc, a regulatory system deployed in 2013 for the State of Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division.
“Metrc is a compliance platform that the government put into place,” said Kyle Sherman, co-founder and CEO of FlowHub. “It’s in the law that you have to use Metrc to report compliance and tracking data.”
According to the Metrc website, the system has registered more than 20,000 users and tracked over 5,000,000 plants and 3,800,000 packages.
The Web-based Metrc comprises a browser interface and a mobile application for both the industry and regulatory users. The back end is a series of secure Web services, a database and an API. Individual regulatory bodies can decide whether to allow external systems to use the API to pull data on a secure validated connection, notes the Metrc site.
APIs will grow in importance as the legal marijuana industry grows, said Sherman.
For example, he said, in Colorado “we have to track each and every plant with a unique identification code, which is an RFID tag, and that tracking information needs to be reported to the state. So, if I move one of my plants from one of my growing rooms into another room in the facility, that movement has to be reported to the state.”
This reporting was originally done by hand, said Sherman—“literally, going and typing in every 24-digit identification code per plant. So, if you have hundreds of plants, imagine the dirty data you were getting. We found a way to work with Metrc via an API.”
“One of the main things our API does is allow for the live menu updates,” said Sherman. “We are pushing out live menu information to dispensary locating and listing services. This way you don’t have old or expired information, and consumers are in touch with the latest products dispensaries are carrying--and aren’t angry at the store when they get there and the item is not available.”
Sherman said this is just the beginning of the API, which is being built out now but is private.
“We are still a new industry, we’re a compliance platform, and we’re trying to understand how people are going to use this,” he said. “A lot is under wraps, and we’re not talking about the details because we are in a highly competitive market.
With that said, Sherman noted the importance of bringing the API public when the time is right—likely in 2017.
"We developed the API because we felt that if we were going to define this whole new industry, we should give other entrepreneurs the ability to develop on top of this ecosystem and have some sort of input into the industry,” he said. “It opens up a world of possibilities—that’s the importance of APIs in general. When you’re opening up data and activity with an API, you’re essentially expanding on an idea or a platform. That’s important for our industry.”
ProgrammableWeb will update the progress of FlowHub’s API, and other APIs that crop up in this burgeoning industry, in future coverage.