Key Highlights:

  • Licensed cannabis businesses are creating incredible quantities of (very valuable) data
  • Owning your data means you get to decide who uses your information and how
  • Data submitted to a government regulator is usually owned by the government
  • Ask your software vendors & consultants key questions about your data

Licensed cannabis businesses are generating business, operational, and scientific data at a staggering pace, and we’re only accelerating from here. As the complexity and sophistication of legal marijuana companies continues to grow, the industry is increasingly turning to software and hardware that can help make dollars and cents of all that data.

That brings up two very important questions:

  1. What does it mean to “own data”?
  2. Who owns your data?

Owning data means you get to decide who uses it & how

It may seem like a simple question, but it’s worth clarifying what “owning data” means in a very simple way.

In short, you can think of owning data like owning a company car with passes to multiple lots & garages. The car, and your data, are yours when you get to use it without restriction to get wherever you want to go. You also get to “lend your keys” to another person or professional, tell them how and where they’re allowed to drive, and revoke access (take away the keys) if they don’t meet their agreement. Finally, you’re allowed to park your car for as long as you like, and pull it out whenever you need it again.

Your company data is a powerful tool that can help you navigate and achieve your business goals. Whether you’re a cultivation, extractor, manufacturer, distributor or retailer, your team is generating valuable data that you can spin into improved profits, efficiency, and peace of mind. When you fully own all of your data, you get to grant access to employees and other businesses to use that data to support your success. You also get to terminate agreements and revoke access as your needs and experiences evolve. Lastly, when you own your data you get to export all of your data from any system so you can archive and use at a later date.

You own most of your data, most of the time

At its core, any data generated within your business is owned by the business – this include all your financial transactions, cultivation logs, manufacturing batches, product sales, personnel records, and much more. If you could keep 100% of your records on pen and paper and local spreadsheets, all of your files would be in your building and no one but your team would ever see your data. In this extreme scenario, you own 100% of rights and licenses for your data, and it is almost never the case.

Most of the time, licensed cannabis businesses are required to submit information to their local, state, or federal regulatory bodies through a seed-to-sale or track-and-trace system. Each government body can create their own rules around the data you submit, and most of the time your government regulators get a lifetime, irrevocable right to any data you submit. Essentially, you are making a copy of your car & your key that you can never get back, and now they get to drive their version whenever and wherever they want as well.

Beyond a software mandated by law, most cannabis business also purchase software (such as grow journals, point of sale, accounting, HR, ERP) that helps organize and run their business. Often times, these software companies are the point of entry for the information they help manage, and they always include a “Terms of Service” and “Privacy Policy” that clearly specifies who owns your data and how it can be used. Some business also use wifi-connected hardware that automatically logs or reports on environmental conditions, machine operations, or other Internet of Things (IoT) systems. More often than not, these software and hardware tools state that your data is your data, but they get a license to de-identify and use your data to improve their product and business. In this case, you only make a copy of your key and you can sometimes take it back.

Good questions to ask future software vendors & consultants

Every need and solution is unique, but here are some great questions to ask about your data:

  • Who owns our company data?
  • Who will see or use my data?
  • How do I export data from your system, and in what formats?
  • Do you de-identify and use for modelling / development?
  • Can I opt out of being included in your model?
  • Do you ever sell company data to 3rd party vendors?
  • What is your backup and disaster recovery plan?

The answers to these questions will provide a clear perspective on how best to protect & maintain ownership of your very valuable data.

If you have any questions or need any help, we are always available for a free data consultation.

Mandatory disclaimer: We are not lawyers, and none of our editorial content should be misconstrued for legal advice. Please consult with the appropriate legal, financial, or tax professional to clarify the best course of action for you and your team.

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