In order for the legal cannabis industry to continue maturing into adulthood, Canada needs to redefine its position on the quality of the products being produced.
Saturday, October 17, marked the two-year milestone of Canada becoming the first G7 country to legalize adult-use cannabis federally with the adoption of the Cannabis Act. Since then, the country’s cannabis industry has seen a rapid expansion.
Licensed manufacturers, producers and a slew of companies from across the supply chain embraced the opportunities presented in both the new recreational and existing medical markets. Adjacent industries, including pharma, alcohol and tobacco all made the move into cannabis. Billions of dollars flooded into the market from investors in anticipation of lucrative returns. While some of the key licensed producers recently reported disappointing returns on initial investments, the latest data from Statistics Canada reveals the cannabis industry has generated about $8.16 billion to the country’s economy.
Technological advancements have certainly played a key role in helping the cannabis industry mature. From ensuring compliance with Health Canada’s requirements and establishing data-driven personalized medical experiences, to helping create exciting new infused-edible products enter the market, here’s how Canada has matured since legalization began.
Data Advancement Allows for Personalized Medicine
Because of the narcotic-based nature of cannabis, and in compliance with regulatory provisions, tagging methodologies and digital tracking are required in Canada to determine the origin of cannabis at every point along the supply chain. Using traceability technology, companies like Applied DNA Sciences are helping to combat counterfeiters and diversion of products. Its SigNature molecular tag can be applied to all types of cannabis products, allowing oversight on legal products from seed to sale and throughout the supply chain.
The variable nature of cannabis requires practitioners to be in tune with how different products will potentially affect patients or recreational consumers.
Strainprint Technologies has developed a consumer feedback system from an aggregation of data that relates to how products are affecting them, helping cannabinoid therapy become a more normalized approach to treating certain conditions. By developing a “personal cannabis tracking” app, patients start by selecting the symptoms they want to treat, then track the usage of products in a library to create a product library of the products that the individual owns. Patients can then share this data with their healthcare provider to ensure they are correctly dosing and medicating for their conditions.
New technology platforms have allowed the adoption of detailed personalized medicine experiences, while blockchain-based decentralized storage networks keep the DNA analysis of individual patients secure, reducing the risk of privacy breaches.
In order for both prescribers and patients to feel confident with cannabinoid therapy, medical cannabis needs to have the same levels of traceability and accountability as any other drug therapy. Product consistency and standardization are paramount requirements within the Shoppers Drug Mart framework, elevating the company above the competition with its online shopping portal for medical cannabis, Medical Cannabis by Shoppers™.
Shoppers has taken a mature, medically-focused delivery of quality products, signing its first cannabis supply deal in December 2017. In July 2020, as part of a study led by the University Health Network aimed at matching patients with the right cannabis products, the pharmacy launched a new online portal for doctors that provides detailed cannabinoid and terpene information designed to help medical professionals better understand the properties of pot strains.
Data is key to gaining the trust of doctors wary of prescribing cannabis. This caution stems from the inconsistencies found between different strains and products when compared with the availability of Drug Identification Numbers on traditional pharmaceuticals. By utilizing the available track-and-trace data systems, Shoppers Drug Mart is taking the necessary steps forward to cross through the next threshold and gain acceptance amongst a larger base.
Cannabis extracts and edibles were legalized in Canada in October 2019, a year after dried flower was given the green light. The hype from the highly anticipated launch shows no sign of slowing since products hit shelves in December 2019. According to Deloitte, the Canadian market for edibles and beverages will be worth $2.7 billion annually.
The legal cannabis industry has grown from childhood to adolescence. In order for it to continue maturing into adulthood, Canada needs to redefine its position on the quality of the products being produced.
The general consensus across the industry speaks of a need to develop a more standardized approach to how products are being manufactured, tested and distributed. Federal legalization has given Canada’s licensed producers an early lead and a unique opportunity to establish a leadership role in the global cannabis industry. The cutting-edge supply chain management technology that blockchain allows can help get the industry to one standard, potentially allowing for further international expansion.
Robert Galarza is Chief Executive Officer of TruTrace Technologies, developer of the first integrated blockchain platform that registers and tracks intellectual property from Genome to Sale for the cannabis industry.