Developers Needed: Cannabis Software Company MJ Freeway Goes Down, Leaving Over 1000 Dispensaries in the Dark

MJ Freeway is a cannabis software company widely used for POS, inventory tracking, and data reporting by thousands of American dispensaries. On January 8th, service was disrupted nationwide in what the company is claiming to be a maliciously-designed attack.

Thousands of dispensaries lost access to their POS systems and all transaction histories. Service is slowly being restored on an individual client basis, though retailers do have access to a temporary POS terminal.

MJ_Freeway_12756532

The incident has caused quite a stir in the nascent cannabis industry, as technology services once again reveal just how vulnerable they can be. Without their indispensable POS systems running, many retailers closed shop, affecting cannabis patients and purchasers in twenty-three states, according to their FaceBook page.

Cannabis sales plummet when transactions are taken down by hand

Cannabis sales plummet when transactions are taken down by hand

MJ Freeway’s disruption occurred on the heels of the state-run database in Nevada accidentally exposing thousands of business applications, including detailed personal information. Clearly, cannabis needs more professional developers if this industry wants to catch up to the standards set by other technological communities.

MJ Freeway claims that no personal information was at risk during the incident, although some data security experts are not convinced. Still, the very thought of exposing information about cannabis patients, whether its personal or generalized consumer trends, should be a reminder that technology is fragile, and we need to be very serious about security.

hacker

If the allegations of an attack are confirmed, MJ Freeway has stated they will pursue criminal charges.

Why Cannabis Reports is Qualified to Report

Cannabis Reports is a qualified source when it comes to cannabis technology. We constantly report on technology and the role it plays in creating a safe, reliable, and successful cannabis industry.

28029466752_aedb5f901a_b

Our Open API supports thousand of developers and hundreds of applications by offering access to information on over 9000 strains and 19000 products. We never stop encouraging technologists to enter the cannabis space and create wonders for the people who love this wonderful plant.

Please note, many publications are calling this a “hack” with very little regard to what actually occurred on the technological side. There are many possibilities as to what caused this incident, and as a community, we should refer to that accordingly.

What We Know About the Incident

Sometime late Saturday January 7th, MJ Freeway went down. One of the ubiquitous softwares powering cannabis sales across the country became inaccessible at thousands of retail locations. MJ Freeway claims to have “nearly 50 percent” of market share, and the outage made a huge dent in national sales that continues while service is being restored.

Some dispensaries began taking orders by hand, others simply closed to avoid the nightmare of non-digital sales. Certain states actually have exclusive contracts with MJ Freeway that require retailers to rely on the software, making legal cannabis nearly inaccessible in those regions .

By Sunday January 8th, MJ Freeway’s Executive Director of Data and Marketing, Jeannette Ward, made a statement on the incident, then stating that users should expect access within 24 to 48 hours, by Monday or Tuesday the 9th and 10th of January.

On Monday January 9th, the company notified users that the outage duration could last anywhere from 72 hours and three weeks. Some clients reportedly got access to limited service today, although restoring  historical transaction logs will take hundreds of development hours.

Currently, MJ Freeway’s site hosts an explanatory message emphasizing: “On Sunday, January 8th, [our] infrastructure was attacked,” and “NO client or patient data was extracted or viewed in the attack.”

Screen Shot 2017-01-11 at 5.20.00 PM

The first MJ Freeway clients now have access to a temporary POS resource that allows them to conduct sales, but reviewing historical records, like sales history and trends, remain inaccessible.

Thankfully, MJ Freeway immediately understood the gravity of the situation and began work on a solution that could keep retailers open for business. The company reports that they have been working non-stop to resolve issues for all of their customers.

Damage Report: Community Response to the Incident

The community was quick to react, as thousands of patients and business operators were forced to endure the lengthy process of tracking retail with pen and paper (and in fact, certain states penalize the use of handwritten ledgers for cannabis sales). The result was long lines and slow transaction times, costing retailers anywhere between an estimated $1,000 and $10,000 per day, depending on whether the retailer shuttered their store completely.

pasted_image_at_2017_01_11_10_40_am

One client who voiced their grievances online demanded a full refund for the inconvenience they have and continue to experience. Others were quick to jump into the conversation, offering both sympathy and disdain for MJ Freeway’s predicament. Competitors of MJ Freeway were quick to pounce on the opportunity, offering sign-up deals and promising a working POS solution within 24 hours of set-up time.

pasted_image_at_2017_01_11_10_49_am

As the MJ Freeway team scrambled to resolve the outage, some clients began their own investigation into what possibly went wrong. One individual presented the possibility that the incident could have stemmed from the use of an outdated version of Drupal, a content management software used to created digital frameworks.

pasted_image_at_2017_01_11_10_50_am

The individual also expressed their apprehension to accept that no user data was viewed or extracted, and asked the company to be transparent and release an incident report.

A different user on Reddit posted an in-depth assessment, based on their professional experience, as to what likely caused MJ Freeway to go down:

Comment from discussion MJ Freeway.

With such a large percentage of the market share for cannabis POS, the loss of MJ Freeway negatively impacts the entire cannabis industry, even if it is just for a few days or weeks. It is likely that several MJ Freeway clients will switch over to a competing software due to a loss of trust.

Flowhub and BioTrackTHC are two of MJ Freeway's competitors that are likely snatching up disgruntled clients

Flowhub and BioTrackTHC are two of MJ Freeway’s competitors that are likely snatching up disgruntled clients

MJ Freeway will have to go above and beyond to restore their service, and retain the bulk of their customers. The outage will likely shift resources from the technological partnerships that MJ Freeway has announced with other cannabis businesses, like Weedmaps (search), Cannabase (wholesale exchange), and MassRoots (social media).

Resolution, Hopefully to Include Incident Report

MJ Freeway says their team is working around the clock to resolve the issue, restore service, and that already a handful of clients are able to operate on a temporary site.

MJ Freeway is currently employing a 3rd-party security review, although it is unclear if they will release an incident report.

This comes right on the heels of the Nevada incident, in which nearly 17,000 business applications were exposed. The proximity of these two incidents highlights the immediate need for serious technologists to enter an industry with so much personal data on the line.

The company has remained adamant that no user data was ever available. According to MJ Freeway, this attack was malicious and brought down their infrastructure, but none of the data was visible due to strong encryption techniques.

“The attack was aimed at corrupting, not extracting, data… What that means is all client-patient data is still protected, still safe, still encrypted and was not viewed by the attackers.” Jeanette Ward, MJ Freeway’s Marketing and Data Director, during an interview with The Cannabist

MJ Freeway experienced a massive outage in November of 2014, when a technical issue brought down the system for their roughly 1,000 clients. That incident supposedly originated during a migration to an improved hosting service with the intention of improving site functionality. Many users left MJ Freeway after that incident, stating that the outage made their retail location appear unorganized and unprofessional.

140101141455-01-colorado-marijuana-0101-horizontal-large-gallery

The public perception of the cannabis industry is typically forgiving, especially considering the infancy of many of the foundational technologies used by retailers and brands. We hope to see service restored quickly, as the estimated financial losses per day are enough to permanently affect small businesses.

Incident-Report

We also hope to see an incident report released so that the entire cannabis tech community can learn from this mishap and strengthen security. Whether it was a shady competitor, a disgruntled employee with inside access, or a breakdown of the technology itself, knowing the cause will help everyone prepare for the future.

Openness is essential for a stronger and better connected industry, and qualified developers are the key that will open the door.

The Longterm Solution: Cannabis Needs Developer

At the end of the day, cannabis needs technology, and it needs competent and driven developers to build it. There is a massive opportunity for technologists to create the tools so desperately needed in the cannabis space, and incidents like the MJ Freeway outage prove how impactful technology can be in a growing industry, for better or for worse.

Cannabis Reports supports hundreds of developers as they design applications for cannabis, from POS systems to chatbots, and everything in between. Our goal is to make the underlying technology ingredients available so that the master chefs of the software world have a full refrigerator while they cook up their ideas.

slack-imgs.comTo join the Cannabis Reports developer ecosystem, sign-up for free on CannabisReports.com and request an API key to start building today.

For the most up to date info on Cannabis Reports, follow us on Twitter, and like us on our Facebook page.

New Jersey Judge Rules in Favor of Insurance Company Covering Medical Cannabis Expenses

Cannabis in the workplace just got even more complicated. Under Federal law, employers have the right to terminate an employee if they discover that person uses cannabis, whether illegally or legally through state medical and recreational laws.

However, a recent court ruling has added another layer to the liabilities undertaken by employers and their insurance firms.

istock_000013348762_medium

New Jersey Judge Ingrid French, who has worked with the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, recently ruled in favor of an employee seeking reimbursement for medical cannabis expenses after a workplace injury.

Andrew Watson, a 39-year-old worker at an 84 Lumber location, developed intractable neuropathic pain after a power saw accident in Watson enrolled in the state’s medical cannabis program in 2014, and was seeking insurance coverage for both past cannabis expenses as well as future treatments.

cannabis-and-painkiller-overdose1

Judge French heard expert testimony from a psychiatrists with neurological focuses, and agreed with their assessment that Watson’s condition was well within New Jersey’s list of qualifying medical conditions for cannabis use.

While the ruling does nothing to protect workers from termination from anti-cannabis employers, it does set an interesting precedent for the legitimacy of medical cannabis to treat injuries sustained in the workplace.

insurance-for-cannabis-business-599x419

One major consideration for other insurance companies is that covering patients using medical cannabis is going to be far less expensive than subsidizing costly opioid treatments, not to mention the human costs associated with the opioid epidemic.

Lawyers representing 84 Lumber and their insurance provider said they do not intend to appeal the decision, which is evidence of a paradigm shift when it comes to cannabis as a universal medical application.

rsz-new-jersey-mmj-patients-call-for-more-qualifying-conditions-640x401

Cannabis legalization is sweeping the nation, and beyond recreational use, well over half of American states have enacted some legal language regarding the use of medical cannabis for those with debilitating conditions. It is a little bit tricky considering that there is no standard between states as to which conditions are applicable for cannabis treatment.

Some states are incredibly limited, while others like California have unmistakably inclusive policies that cover any pain that might affect normal daily functions.

As these states adopt medical cannabis policies, employers will have to adjust certain workplace policies to reflect both the state and national precedents. These adjustments are of major concern to employer groups, especially in more conservative states that have only recently adopted medical cannabis laws, like Arkansas.
marijuana_f070xx

 

Many newly-initiated medical cannabis states are holding seminars for employers to learn more about cannabis policies in general, and where the liabilities are likely to present themselves. Some areas of discussion will be conflicts between federal and state cannabis laws, as well as compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and OSHA regulations regarding drug testing.

At the end of the day, drug-free workplace policies can absolutely remain intact, however, cannabis is especially tricky to test for use in a working capacity, as cannabinoids stay within an individual’s system anywhere from one to forty-five days. We have certainly not heard the end of the potential conflicts based on employers checking for on-site impairment versus legal medical use at home.

Rethinking Pot NJ

Certain states, like Nevada, have medical cannabis laws that require employers to make reasonable accommodations for employees who hold valid medical registry cards for cannabis use. While Nevada courts have yet to rule on a case that covers this conflict, it is reasonable to assume that the language exists to protect folks who are not abusing the medical cannabis system.

Overall, the ruling was a positive step forward for medical cannabis across the country, but there are still 49 other states that will eventually have to approach this tricky situation.

slack-imgs-com_-1-1024x938

For the most up to date info on Cannabis Reports, follow us on Twitter, and like us on our Facebook page.

How Much Cannabis Does California Grow? $23 Billion Worth, According to New Infographic

Kurt Snibbe has put together a wonderful infographic on California cannabis that simply needs to be shared. The data, like most in the cannabis space, is only a portion of the bigger story, but the graphic does a wonderful job visualizing the existing impact and influence that cannabis already has on California’s agricultural economy.

The goal of the infographic is to show the scale at which cannabis cultivation in California compares with the rest of our agricultural production, both within the state and throughout the rest of the country.

pot

Spoiler alert: California grows quite a bit of cannabis. Actually, the evidence points to the fact that California is the largest producer of cannabis each year by a long shot.

While the data is revealing, it is weighted on certain estimates that may be too high (or too low). For instance, total plant cultivation is being extrapolated from the total number of plants seized from national forests in the year 2013.

Plants Seized in National Forests, 2013

Plants Seized in National Forests, 2013

Cannabis production has likely increased since 2013, and the confiscated plants from public land do not give us an accurate idea of how many plants are being grown on private land. Some estimates of the number of California cannabis operations fall between twenty and fifty thousand. Not plants, but the farms themselves!

The estimated market size is also a product of great estimation, but once again it is not clear which side of the pendulum we are leaning when guesstimates are made. According to the United Nations World Drug Report, law enforcement confiscates between ten and twenty percent of drugs produced.

screen-shot-2017-01-04-at-9-31-47-am

Based on the California confiscation rates in 2015 (2.64 million plants), there could have been at least 13.2 million plants grown in total, of which 11 million were not seized. These numbers are actually low on the scale of estimates.

If the number of plants grown during California’s 2015 season was above 10 million, then based on the going rate for a pound of cannabis (between 1500 and 2000 dollars), Snibbe estimates California’s cannabis production may be worth roughly 23 billion dollars, wholesale!

Once again, these estimates are very broad and deserve a more in-depth look, but Snibbe is able to get the message across. California is the leading cannabis economy in the world.

screen-shot-2017-01-04-at-9-26-43-am

Not only do we produce more cannabis than any other single American state four times over, we also create nearly four times as much value from cannabis production as we do from milk, and five times as much money as we get from our combined almond production.

screen-shot-2017-01-04-at-9-25-51-am

In fact, out of 47 billion dollars in cash farm receipts from 2015, Snibbe estimates that half was from cannabis production. All of the images used in this article are screenshots from the original infographic, available below and on the OC Register web resources.

pot-dfm

For the most up to date info on Cannabis Reports, follow us on Twitter, and like us on our Facebook page. If you see that we overlooked an event this past week in cannabis, please join the discussion in the comment section below, or through our social media links.

« Older posts