The online system that tracks medical marijuana got overwhelmed by heavy use on Friday and Saturday, officials said, slowing and preventing purchases at dispensaries across Maryland.
A spokeswoman for the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission attributed the problem to a new feature that allowed patients to log in to see how much medical marijuana they had bought and how much they were still permitted to buy in a 30-day period. Until recently, only dispensaries could tap the information to ensure they were selling the permitted amounts.
“The system didn't stop, but it was very slow and in some cases would not process the purchases,” said Jennifer White, the commission spokeswoman.
Officials at the vendor that runs the system determined Saturday that heavy patient volume was overwhelming the system at peak times. The vendor, Florida-based Franwell, shut off patient access and the system, known as Metrc, returned to normal for dispensaries.
White said the commission has asked to restore the feature as a convenience for patients, but she had no timeline. The Metrc system serves 10 states that permit medical marijuana sales, but White believes the patient feature was only in use in Maryland. Franwell did not respond to a request for comment.
There are more than 27,000 certified patients in Maryland and another 11,000 registered and awaiting certification.
Medical providers recommend the use of medical marijuana for several maladies and also recommend an amount of the products for patients to use. The products, including different strains of marijuana, are different strengths and that requires a complex calculation each time a dispensary or a patient logged into the Metrc system, White said.
Max Davidson, executive director of the Maryland Patients Rights Association and assistant general manager of the Timonium area dispensary Your Farmacy, said the online feature was a big request from customers. He said for the time being customers will have to call or come in to find out about their limits.
He said Your Farmacy was unable to sell any products at times over the weekend because the dispensary wasn’t able to use the system, causing problems for some customers.
“Some people drive an hour or two hours to a dispensary and then they get there and find out they can’t get their medicine,” said Davidson, who confirmed the system is again working smoothly for dispensaries.