Blockchain offers a fresh solution to cannabis industry challenges as it moves further into the mainstream economy. Let's take a closer look at blockchain and how it can solve the pain points of a budding market.
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Most people today are aware of the therapeutic power of cannabis. Moreover, an increasing number of industry activists are leading the way to self-regulate and legitimize the industry. As the popularity grows, so do the number of entrepreneurs looking to create value and investors who want to participate.
The strides we've seen in the cannabis industry are not without pain points. Issues like transparency, quality assurance, payment solutions, and overall regulatory uncertainty have troubled consumers and entrepreneurs for years.
Fortunately, along with the industry explosion, we have also experienced the development and growth of blockchain technology. As the benefits of blockchain become more widely known, we are likely entering a new era where this innovative technology can create greater legitimacy for cannabis-related products and services.
You may have heard about blockchain and how it can revolutionize processes like banking and logistics. But if you aren't familiar with how it works, don't worry – you're not alone. Blockchain is a decentralized system of recording information that is nearly impossible to hack, change, or cheat. It is essentially a digital ledger of transactions distributed throughout an entire network of computer systems, and it's the decentralized database at the heart of the current cryptocurrency revolution.
Thousands of businesses, including major companies like IBM, Shell, and Pfizer, use blockchain to solve a wide range of issues. And together with sister technologies like smart contracts and cryptocurrency, blockchain has the potential to solve many problems in the cannabis industry and pave the way for its continued growth.
Smart contracts use blockchain technology to verify, validate, capture and enforce agreed-upon terms between multiple parties. Smart contracts on the blockchain allow for transactions and agreements to be carried out among anonymous parties without the need for a central entity, external enforcement, or legal system.
The cannabis industry had to fly underneath the legal radar for so many years, and in most places in the US, it's still operating in a legal grey area. This leaves a lot of room for questionable business practices that concern both consumers and governments. But blockchain can offer a solution.
Because the blockchain ledger cannot be changed or manipulated, it can do a fantastic job of eliminating potentially deceptive practices. For instance, blockchain could make it extremely easy for governments and financial institutions to audit cannabis companies, keep track of taxes, and make sure companies follow legal and financial compliance standards.
Blockchain can also be beneficial in the cannabis space, where businesses deal with unclear regulations across borders. It could give these businesses tangible proof about the point of origin and if their products crossed national or state lines.
The cannabis industry is so new, and companies struggle with creating an effective vertical integration in their supply chain. From the time the flower leaves the farm to when it reaches a dispensary, cannabis will touch many hands and experience many potential points of failure. Blockchain can be a great solution to this problem because it allows businesses to manage their supply chain in real-time -- eliminating lag, loss of product, and tedious paper trails.
Cannabis businesses that utilize blockchain will be able to identify inefficiencies in the process and take care of them right away.
Consumers also want to know where their products come from, where they have been, and who has handled them. Blockchain can provide consumers with a complete picture of a product's journey – from seed to sale. This type of transparency can help consumers feel confident in the products they purchase and foster brand loyalty.
Even though most states in the US have legalized cannabis in some capacity, federal law still puts restrictions on how cannabis businesses can accept payments. This leads many companies to operate in a cash-only manner, creating a wild-west level of operational risk.
Because cryptocurrencies are decentralized and (for the most part) unregulated, they could be an immediate solution for companies operating financially in legal grey areas. They can empower cannabis businesses to accept fast, cashless, and secure payments that are made or released when a certain qualifying event takes place.
For example, a smart contract would allow for a payment to be made once a certain business rule is carried out.
Whether through cultivation, processing, or retail, labor is one of the most significant expenses in the cannabis industry. Blockchain can help streamline the tracking, reporting, and auditing of time consumption. This can decrease the need for oversight related to staffing and reduce a lot of costs for businesses.
The idea that medical cannabis could one day exist in a mainstream pharmacy setting seems far-fetched due to concerns around consistency, liability, and security. Still, blockchain may be able to change that. Implementing blockchain into pharmacies and medical cannabis facilities can provide a secure database that tracks things like potency, CBD and THC levels, and variations between batches.
With this level of information, healthcare professionals and pharmacists can refer to up-to-date, secure, science-based sources of information from trusted suppliers. And with such comprehensive data, patients can match with medical cannabis that will suit their health and wellness needs.
From tracking the supply chain to payment processing to greater industry transparency, the cannabis industry has plenty of areas to benefit from blockchain technology. And as both blockchain and the cannabis industry evolve together, we will likely see many new ideas for collaborative innovation that will grow the industry and help people worldwide access this miraculous plant medicine.