SALEM — The Oregon Liquor Control Commission continues to move ahead with implementing its seed-to-sale tracking system for recreational marijuana, despite a lawsuit filed by an unsuccessful bidder.
The agency recently signed a $1.7 million contract awarded to the Lakeland, Fla.-based company Franwell, which was among approximately 25 firms that responded during the bidding process. Franwell provides the tracking system used by Colorado marijuana regulators while BioTrackTHC, also based in Florida, provides the pot tracking system used in Washington. BioTrackTHC filed a lawsuit against Oregon in May, alleging the state incorrectly awarded points to Franwell due to a transcription error and improperly deducted points from BioTrackTHC for various reasons.
Franwell filed a countersuit in July, alleging that BioTrackTHC was unqualified to bid on the Oregon contract because the company has a financial interest in the marijuana industry. Oregon’s request for proposals required companies to attest they had no connection to the marijuana industry through a vendor, their employees or subcontractors. According to Franwell’s lawyers, “the principals of BioTrackTHC have direct economic interests in the production and user consumption of marijuana through their involvement and ownership of companies such as IKush, Inc. and the National Cannabis Chamber of Commerce ...”
Franwell cited records from a federal lawsuit in Florida, which revealed BioTrackTHC executives also head up IKush — which provides a search application for consumers to find in-stock legal marijuana — and the National Cannabis Chamber of Commerce, which has the stated goal of “aggressive economic development” of the pot industry.
Franwell asked the court to find that BioTrackTHC made false assertions during the bidding process and was not a qualified bidder.
Mark Pettinger, a spokesman for the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, said the agency wants the tracking system to be operational by January so that employees can organize a statewide tour to introduce it to marijuana growers, processors and retailers who will use it.
“My expectation would be that we would do a technical tour in early January that would focus on the seed to sale system,” Pettinger said. “I do know that our system won’t replicate Colorado’s. There are going to be things that are unique to this one.”
The commission also plans to conduct a statewide tour in December to introduce the marijuana industry to the online application system recreational pot businesses must use to obtain state licenses, which the state obtained from a different vendor. Measure 91, which legalized marijuana for all adults age 21 and older in Oregon, requires the commission to begin accepting applications for licenses from retailers and other businesses by January 2016.
The seven-person team that evaluated Franwell and BioTrackTHC’s bid proposals gave them nearly the same score. According to court documents, Franwell received an average of 93.15 out of 100 possible points, and BioTrackTHC received an average of 92.57 points. BioTrackTHC asked the court to prevent the state from signing a contract with Franwell and require the Oregon Liquor Control Commission to reconsider the proposals.
In court documents filed in July, lawyers for the state and Franwell said that the issued cited by BioTrackTHC do not constitute grounds for protesting the bid award, or for judicial review, under Oregon law. A hearing on the state and Franwell’s motion to dismiss BioTrackTHC’s lawsuit is currently scheduled for October in Marion County Circuit Court.