Michael Johnson: We Are the Backbone of Legal Cannabis

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This week, Michael Johnson, CEO of Metrc, joins the Cannabis Equipment News podcast to talk about his first month on the job and how his platform became a tool the industry can't live without. 

Metrc is based in Lakeland, Florida, just outside of Tampa. It's a sunny location, but not exactly a hotspot for the tech industry. Michael Johnson was working at a software company outside of the cannabis sector when, in 2018, Metrc received $50 million in growth funding — including some from Tiger Global, a global investment powerhouse that has backed companies like Spotify, Facebook and LinkedIn. Johnson started to pay attention and reached out to meet the team, including Metrc co-founder Jeff Wells.

He became familiar with the business, learning about where Metrc was headed and the services it provided to the cannabis regulatory supply chain. The platform is the world's most robust regulatory supply chain technology system. According to Johnson, most supply chain tech tools don't provide full end-to-end visibility, which is Metrc's bread and butter. With 22 government contracts, the platform has 250,000 users comprised of growers, testing facilities, dispensaries, state regulators and law enforcement officials.

Using a combination of software, RFID, customer support and a secure database, the company tracks cannabis from growth, harvest and processing to testing, transport and sale. 

In May 2022, Johnson was named Metrc CEO as Wells transitioned to a new role as chief visionary officer. At the time, Johnson was president and CFO of the company. 

What makes Metrc unique, according to Johnson, is its ability to allow stakeholders in the legal market to have more access to events in the cannabis plant's lifecycle. The system tracks the most critical elements: everything from feeding timelines, room monitoring, clippings and harvests to packaging, processing, distribution and sale. Johnson said Metric is all about providing complete transparency into the process.

Metrc has gone from startup to grownup quickly, and Johnson is looking forward to spearheading future growth. The company serves different stakeholders in various ways. State regulators are the primary users, and Johnson said Metrc is the backbone of the legal cannabis system and supply chain. However, of the company's 250,000 users, only 1,000 come from the agency level. The majority of Metrc's day-to-day users are cultivators, producers and other licensed users trying to get more out of the platform. 

For some, it's just a repository to store compliance information, but the vast majority use the data and infrastructure to run day-to-day operations. 

"If you're in the cannabis space at all, RFID is the holy grail, and we've just scratched the surface," Johnson said. He added that every single agricultural supply chain across the country leverages RFID as a critical part of the business, and Metrc is enabling similar success in cannabis. 

Johnson has plans to advance the company's RFID tech and SaaS platform. For example, he's working on a more sustainable tag made of recycled paper and hemp. The product is still in testing to ensure it can withstand the harsh environments of cannabis facilities. 

Competition will increase as the cannabis industry matures, and companies must find efficiencies to remain competitive. Johnson said RFID is the best tool on the market to uncover these opportunities. 

As Metrc grows, Johnson hopes to remain committed to maturing the company in a way that allows all users, regulators, third-party integrators and stakeholders to have a better experience to support the legal cannabis market — and be as successful as possible. 

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