Maine struck a tentative $275,000 deal with a Florida company Thursday to track marijuana growth, manufacturing and sales in both the medical and adult-use markets throughout the state.

If finalized, the conditional award to Fort Lauderdale-based Bio-Tech Medical Software Inc., which operates a cloud-based tracking service known as BioTechTHC in 10 states including Delaware, Illinois and Washington State, would represent a major step in Maine’s efforts to launch its recreational pot market.

Bio-Tech has seven years experience tracking marijuana sales for private industry, and five years tracking cultivation, manufacturing, and sales for governments that want to oversee tax collection, product safety and prevent illegal sales.

State officials tasked with scoring the six different track-and-trace programs vying for the Maine contract liked Bio-Tech’s prescription drug tracking experience, use of bar code labeling rather than RFID tags, and that it has no record of data losses.

Bio-Tech told Maine it could launch its BioTechTHC system in under five months.

Maine officials say the state is on target to roll out its recreational market in 2019.

This is the second time that Maine has tried to award this track-and-trace contract.

Earlier this year, the Department of Administrative and Financial Services inked a deal with METRC, another major marijuana tracking company out of Florida, only to cancel that contract a few weeks later amid bidding concerns.

The state had used track-and-trace bids submitted to Alaska, which also has a legal marijuana market, to cut the deal with METRC in hopes of speeding up its effort to roll out its marijuana markets. The deal would have hired METRC to track medical marijuana first, and then expand the services to track recreational marijuana later. State officials later decided it was better to solicit one bid for both tracking services.

Concerns also were raised because a METRC executive was a partner in the state’s contracted cannabis consulting firm. But METRC and Freedman & Koski, the company the state tasked with writing its marijuana rules, downplayed the potential conflict.

METRC bid on the latest track-and-trace contract, too, but its bid did not score as well as BioTrackTHC’s. BioTrackTHC was top scorer out of six bidders, grabbing 90 out of 100 possible points. METRC came in second with a 69.73.

Erik Gundersen, the director of Maine’s Office of Marijuana Policy, called the deal an “important milestone” in the state’s effort to launch its recreational pot market, which was approved by voters at referendum in November 2016.

The conditional award will not become final, however, until the state negotiates a contract with BioTrackTHC and the 10-day window for a losing bidder to appeal a contract expires. Both of Maine’s major cannabis contracts have endured appeals.

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