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In the highly regulated world of commercial cannabis, traceability is a critical component of day-to-day operations. Anyone who comes in contact with a cannabis product throughout the supply chain must comply with state and local regulations to track the plant through every single stage of the production process, from the moment a seed is planted until the final product is purchased at a dispensary.

This detailed seed-to-sale cannabis traceability process wouldn’t be possible without barcode and RFID technologies, which are used to capture and record the massive amounts of data needed to keep cannabis companies in compliance. But what’s the difference between these two types of tracking tech, and which one is right for your unique situation? Let’s take a closer look. 


Why are barcodes and RFID used in cannabis operations? 

Both barcodes and RFID (radio-frequency identification) are used to gather and record data about cannabis plants and final products, including origin and strain information, facility license numbers, potency and dosage information, sales records and other identifying characteristics. 

Barcodes and RFID technologies enable cannabis professionals to quickly and accurately input this data into their traceability system, reducing the possibility of human error that comes with manual data entry. Integrating these tracking solutions with seed-to-sale software can help cannabis companies improve accuracy in reporting, eliminate inefficiencies and reduce labor costs. 


What’s the difference between barcodes and RFID? 

RFID and barcodes are used to help companies track their assets and record item information. They’re used in all sorts of industries, from retail to food to agriculture, and now cannabis. But, there are key differences that separate the two types of tracking technologies.


    Barcode technology in cannabis operations

Barcodes are a cost-effective and reliable solution for cannabis track-and-trace activities. The scanners require line-of-sight scanning, which means they must “see” each barcode label one at a time to scan and collect the data. 


Benefits of barcodes:

Affordability. Barcode labels are inexpensive to design and print, and today’s barcode scanners can fit just about any budget. 

● Versatility. Barcodes can be used to track and collect a variety of data, from inventory to pricing. 

● Accuracy. Barcode scanners are easy to use (just point and click), which can help reduce employee training time and prevent mistakes. 


Drawbacks of barcodes:

● “Line Of Sight” Requirement. To scan a barcode, your scanner must have a clear and direct line of sight to the printed barcode to be scanned, and can only be a short distance away from the barcode. This distance is dependent on the type of printed barcode and the type of barcode scanner used.


RFID technology in cannabis operations

RFID uses digital data encoded into a circuit and antenna attached to a label or tag.  Special RFID readers “activate” the circuits in the tags so they transmit the data to the reader.  In the cannabis industry, RFID tags are used to track plants, tools, assets, inventory, personnel and more. 


Benefits of RFID:

● Real-time reporting. Because some states require use of RFID tags for plant identification, RFID technology may be mandatory for cultivators. 

● Speed. RFID readers can read hundreds of labels at once, making them ideal for cannabis companies with a large inventory. 

No “Line Of Sight” Requirement. RFID readers do not have to have a direct line of sight to the RFID tag in order to read it. Though RFID signals can be impeded by metal enclosures or liquids, they generally can be read by RFID readers at greater distances, and without a direct line of sight.


Drawbacks of RFID:

● Cost and complexity. As a more complex and advanced technology, RFID is more expensive than traditional barcoding. You can expect to pay more for both RFID labels and readers compared to simpler barcode labels and scanners. Since RFID systems are also more complex than barcode systems, you’ll likely need to devote more time to set up a successful RFID system in your cannabis facility. 


Barcode or RFID: Which is right for your cannabis business?

There’s no hard and fast rule to determine whether RFID or barcode solutions are better for your specific cannabis company. Both types of tracking technology are suitable for various cannabis applications, so it’s important to consider these questions when making your decision:

What are you tracking? 

How large is your inventory?

What type of data do you need to collect?

How and where will the tracking take place? 

How often do you need to report the data you collect?

What’s your budget?


No matter your role in the cannabis supply chain—cultivator, producer, processor or distributor—you need accurate and secure cannabis tracking hardware. Trust the experts at Delta9 Systems to help you find the right cannabis barcode or RFID solutions to help you improve efficiency and maximize profits! 

From wireless cannabis barcode scanners to cutting-edge cannabis RFID readers designed for the rugged garden environment, Delta9 Systems has the right tools and tech for your cannabis operation, at prices you can afford. 


Contact us today for questions and consultation. We’re happy to help you find the best cannabis barcode scanning and labeling solutions for your growing business! 

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