From the opioid epidemic to the COVID-19 pandemic, such events have intensified the need for complete transparency and trust in supply chains to ensure packaging and products are contaminant free. Now, perhaps more than ever, supply chain partners and customers want details and information about industry practices and products.
Currently, medical marijuana is legal in 33 states and blockchain, which is steadily gaining adoption in other markets, could be the next game-changing technology for the cannabis industry across the country. Proven in mainstream food safety, pharmaceuticals, agriculture, and other sectors, blockchain-backed platforms offer benefits for everyone, from breeders with new genetics to consumers shopping dispensary shelves.
The following are some of the ways blockchain technology could benefit the cannabis industry:
- Rapid, real-time traceability and tracking.
Blockchain’s secure technology ensures an accurate, permanent record, but it also allows rapid access to specific details within the large amounts of stored information. With blockchain, businesses can instantly get a specific product’s full history and access present and past locations in the supply chain. In a seed-to-sale tracking system, all cannabis seedlings would be given a unique identifier and registered in a manifest. Plants are tracked through the entire supply chain, allowing regulators to identify cannabis products along with attributes such as seed origin, plant strain, and supply chain transaction history. Plant strain DNA could also be a key attribute tracked through this system. This real-time record keeping aids in preventing diversion with the illegal market, facilitating prosecution of illegal diversion, and enabling rapid product recalls. It would also ensure that medical and recreational cannabis products are kept apart throughout their life-cycle.
- Improved efficiency and reduced costs.
Few people understand how massive the Cannabis industry has become. As lawmakers in the U.S. and Canada are pushing for decriminalization, the industry now employs more than 250,000 people. That’s about five times the amount of U.S. coal miners. Labor remains one of the largest expenses for cannabis businesses, whether they operate cultivation facilities, retail shops or both. Blockchain can streamline time-consuming tracking, reporting and auditing, and eventually reduce the need for staff and oversight related to those functions.
- Product validation and standardization.
Cannabis has long been identified primarily by street names. Under blockchain-powered programs, genetic cultivar information could be collected, registered, tested and published through the secure, permanent infrastructure blockchain provides.
Growers can protect their IP. Researchers can identify specific genetic and chemical profiles. Medical providers and retailers can be sure they receive consistent products and verify provenance, testing results, patient outcomes and other immutable information.
- Consumer confidence.
Blockchain-powered scannable codes and other technologies can increase transparency and provide end consumers with secure, verified product identification and information to drive confidence and brand loyalty.
Product diversion can be accomplished by inserting illegally grown plants into the regulated distribution system, or selling legally grown plants in an unregulated fashion. With blockchain, distributed ledgers and proof of work algorithms create a transaction system that is secure, irreversible, and auditable; no single party has sufficient power to alter a past transaction record. This limits product’s diversion risk by reducing tampering, and collusion, in the database system. To reduce tampering with the physical assets (plants), plant tags can be linked with producer and retailer metadata such as business name, location, and employee ID. Associating each plant tag with multiple metadata properties would limit illegal transaction of plant tags within the system.
As noted, there are many issues within the cannabis industry that can be tackled with the help of blockchain technology to make it stronger, safer, and more transparent.
As blockchain technology becomes more pervasive across industries such as cannabis, it is becoming more apparent that systems and processes will involve communication and integration with multiple blockchain networks and technologies.
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