Shoppers Drug Mart says blockchain technology will help track medical cannabis orders and provide pharmacists and physicians assurance about the quality and safety for patients.
Canada’s largest pharmacy chain, which is owned by Loblaw Companies Ltd (TSX:L), said Monday it is partnering with B.C. startup TruTrace Technologies (CSE:TTT) to deploy a pilot program that is secured by blockchain to help track, identify and validate the authenticity of cannabis seeds, strains and final products. This will be done through TruTrace’s StrainSecure technology which will allow companies to standardize testing, quality assurance and conduct product verification.
The vice-president of business development at Shoppers Drug Mart (which operates 1,300 pharmacies across Canada) made the announcement at the World Cannabis Congress in Saint John, N.B. Monday. He said the source of medical cannabis must be traceable and accountable for patients and practitioners to feel confident about it as a treatment.
– Shoppers Drug Mart’s Ken Weisbrod via The Canadian Press
There are many different strains and variations of cannabis, and getting THC and CBD cannabinoid ratios correct is crucial for patients who use the drug to treat a variety of ailments. Ensuring the safety and reliability of medical marijuana is an important step to building trust with doctors and patients and for the long-term growth of the industry.
And Weisbrod said this partnership allows Canada to become a leader for collecting data on medical marijuana.
“This is the future for medical cannabis in the world. I know the U.S. is looking at what we’re doing here, and it’s really important that we take this leadership stance,” he said.
Weisbrod added pharmacists will be able to scan a bottle of medical pot and get all the available information on the product.
When a patient takes medication, there is an expectation that it is standardized, and they can expect consistent clinical outcomes and results. Although that’s not always a guarantee within the medical cannabis industry at the moment, we’re hoping this new program can help change that.
– Shoppers Drug Mart’s Ken Weisbrod said in the news release
The pilot program began in May and is scheduled to finish by July 31 with a full-scale roll out targeted by the end of November.
Blockchain medical pot program could make waves across entire legal industry
Shoppers Drug Mart has already partnered with some of the big cannabis producers in the country, including Aphria Inc (NYSE:APHA)(TSX:APHA) and Aurora Cannabis Inc (NYSE:ACB)(TSX:ACB). However, one desire with its test program is to remain a trusted brand for its customer base of medical pot patients.
If successful, it could be a significant step forward for the industry and other companies will likely look to utilize the tracking technology.
Consumers still carry a level of mistrust for medical pot products creating the need for testing kits to check the authenticity of strains and ensure they’ve got the correct mix of THC and CBD. But having an effective tracking system would eliminate this need and would give patients and doctors some peace of mind knowing that they’ve received the correct cannabis strain with the right dosage.
Meanwhile, TruTrace said its medical marijuana track-and-trace software could present new opportunities with other cannabis producers and be utilized in the U.S. for the burgeoning CBD market.
“We think this push with Shoppers will hopefully lead into a similar relationship with the Walgreens and CVSs of the world. There’s skepticism right now from the medical industry and we’re trying to help breach that; it all boils down to information. Information is power, data is power.”
– TruTrace CEO Robert Galarza told Bloomberg
Galarza sees this tracking technology can help solve the problem with unwarranted claims on CBD products in the U.S. with some products containing little or no CBD at all. Since hemp-derived CBD has become legal since the passing of the last farm bill last year, major U.S. retail chains such as CVS, Walgreens, Kroger Co., and Walmart have begun selling CBD lotions and balms at some of their stores.