Key takeaways from the Cannabis + Technology conference

Last Friday was the inaugural Cannabis + Technology conference at the Steam Whistle Brewery in Toronto. As cannabis becomes legalized in more and more jurisdictions, technology is innovating the way that producers and governments maintain quality standards, store records, and sell products in a retail environment. Here are two key takeaways from Friday’s conference:

Shoppers Drug Mart’s Cannabis Blockchain is the killer application we have been waiting for.

Most people think of Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies when they hear of blockchain, but there are a lot more applications. Shoppers will use blockchain as a master registry that tracks and standardizes cannabis tracking and validation. Traditionally, it’s very difficult to verify the source and quality of cannabis back to the producer. Ken Weisbrod, VP of Business Development, outlined how Shoppers has worked with a number of producers to standardize lab testing of samples, so patients know exactly what they’re getting. On the surface, it might look like some venture capitalists just combined two of 2017’s best investment opportunities. But it makes a lot of sense to build the foundation of cannabis records on the best and newest technology. Unlike pharmaceuticals, cannabis comes from multiple suppliers. And because it’s a plant, there is a certain margin of error that needs to be in place to maintain quality standards. The pilot is underway and will wrap up in November 2019. No doubt, the industry will be watching this innovation. 

Will Health Canada pull cannabis vapes just as they are about to become legal?

There has been a lot of press about the impact of vaporizer pens that will be legalized on October 17, with public availability in December 2019. With over a dozen deaths in the U.S. linked to vape pens, industry watchers have been wondering if Health Canada will pull the plug. The cause of these deaths and hospitalizations have been linked to two things:

  • Additives like Vitamin E damaging lungs when inhaled
  • Pesticides like the fungicide myclobutanil which transform into hydrogen cyanide when burned (yes, it’s as bad as it sounds)

Early investigations show a troubling trend. Legal vape pens from California tested clear from contaminates, but 13 out of 15 cartridges sourced from black-market sources tested positive for Vitamin E, and all black-market cartridges tested positive for pesticides. 

Brian Coutts of A&L Labs says “We should control them, test them and have them extracted with clean methods”. Paul Pedersen of Nextleaf Solutions makes the analogy that “It’s kinda like the prohibition of alcohol with bathtub gin that made thousands of people go blind and worse”. There is an argument that delaying legal options will push consumers to black-market alternatives. Looking at how the legal cartridges in California tested negative for contaminates gives a good argument for Health Canada to stay the course.

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