Puerto Rico’s beautiful white-sand beaches and coral reef could soon be outshined by the kind you can smoke, as the government prepares for a medical marijuana program.
The Caribbean island and U.S. territory will be home to the first government body in the Caribbean and Latin America to secure a software solution to manage their medical cannabis program and BioTrackTHC’s software is about to take the gold.
“The emphasis was on a multi-lingual system,” said Patrick Vo, CEO of one of the most popular seed-to-sale tracking software systems. “That the system will be deployed in Spanish and English is a key difference that is readily apparent.”
BioTrack’s enterprise tracking software is used at more than 1,700 grows and dispensaries in 23 states and in some foreign countries. “We don’t dictate what they should do, but our experience leads the way. They can make decisions to best fit their needs,” said Vo.
Their plan is poised to win the contract in Puerto Rico, a feat they are very excited and proud of – especially given the high-profile competition, like the much cited Kind Financial team which was announced to be in a partnership with the mainstream computing giant Microsoft.
“It added an extra layer, a motivator going into drafting and submitting, the live presentation. To know that we crossed the finish line and BioTrack ended up being number one…it’s exciting…And now we are waiting for the ‘award’ ceremony.”
In an interview with the presumptive winner, Vo reflected on the high score they received, and in light of the Olympics in Rio he said, “it’s a matter of weeks or months and it feels like we are about to take the podium after completing the race.”
The medical cannabis industry is expected to create hundreds of jobs on the island: jobs directly in cannabis and jobs that support the cannabis sector such as legal, industrial, agricultural, medical, financial, and marketing positions.
However, Vo isn’t counting on the win – yet.
The Puerto Rican Department of Health announced BioTrack as the team with the highest overall score in the competitive procurement, but there still needs to be a contract. Then, it’s formally executed and the winner becomes the contractor and can begin to work. As in most marijuana government procurement processes, the government initiates the competitive bid process.
The best priced plan isn’t necessarily the winner, explained Vo. “It’s an enormous amount of work that goes into each proposal. This will be our seventh government contract, the first in the Caribbean. Our employees work day, night and weekends to put the best proposal forward.” His software company is used to the multi-variable approach.
In Puerto Rico, there were four components to the overall score. A blend of the scores from those components and the one that scores highest is the best value for the government, based on their priorities.
Opportunity in Research
BioTrack’s expertise is in plants and cannabis products and tractability, but they are tuned into the research side too. There’s definitely an opportunity, said Vo, for the company to grow in the research sector.
“Anything that ties to the plants and products, from the business, government or research side – at the end of the day, it’s about the data,” he said. For example, connecting plants and products to other things that are relevant like lab testing or sales trends. Or, on the government side, connecting that to financial information for taxes or research results.
DEA Decision Not to Reschedule
On Thursday, the Drug Enforcement Agency affirmed its position of keeping cannabis on the Controlled Substances Act as a Schedule 1 substance, effectively denying that cannabis can have medicinal effects on patients.
“It would have accelerated the timing of certain things, we had a different plan if they said yes.” Removal from Schedule 1 wouldn’t have had an immediate effect in respect to workflows. “There would be some time for things to take place, and of course, we would pivot accordingly to any new requirements on facilities and licensees.”
Regardless of what he hoped for, there was a game plan for both scenarios. “In terms of our strategy we are moving forward assuming fragmentations, the states themselves will continue to pass cannabis initiatives on a state by state basis.”
On the prospect of BioTrack getting its feet wet in the research realm, Vo said that it’s interesting to think about, but he isn’t there yet. “It would be interesting for inventory to interact with the system that tracks the research patients and conditions and results.”
Thinking Outside of the Box
At the end of the day, merit plays the biggest role in their winning streak, said Vo. “But the ability to come up with out of the box solutions, and that our talent isn’t restricted – that we have the best people independent of any characteristics is key.”
Being culturally aware and sensitive also helps, especially as medical marijuana and cannabis legalization reaches further around the globe. “It makes us stronger and able to bring more to the table.” Being a company with multi-lingual employees as well as being culturally aware was a nice feather in their hat in Puerto Rico. That aside, said Vo, having the best people means we have diverse ideas and approaches to be more creative.
Recent news of the loosening of research cannabis cultivation policy in America is opening new avenues for cannabusinesses to diversify. It’s yet to be seen how, exactly, but BioTrack said they are open to research institutions using their platform. They already have operations in two cultivation universities in Jamaica for tracking their products.
BioTrack is based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and its core users are largely business oriented.