The passage of legalized medical marijuana in many U.S. states gave birth to a whole new industry, which in turn gave rise to a whole new need for tech innovation. The first technological innovations to grow out of the medical marijuana industry were ones that emulated existing technology. Leafly is like a Yelp that lets users post reviews of dispensaries. Massroots is like a Facebook that lets patients meet and share their experiences with strains that work for them, not unlike Facebook. Weedmaps is like a Groupon that lets users join efforts to get great deals on medical marijuana. Weedhire is like a Monster that helps workers find employment in the medical marijuana industry. But these are just the beginning.
The need for compliance with government regulations as well as systems for effectively (and economically) managing medical marijuana businesses has led to a need breed of tech innovations. The following are some of those needed innovations, as well as examples of companies moving them forward.
Seed to Sale Tracking
Seed to sale tracking essentially tags and tracks every single legal marijuana plant from the moment it’s planted as a seed until the time it’s sold to a patient. Even when that plant is further processed into tinctures, edibles, or other marijuana products, seed to sale tracking ensures that all plants are linked to product sold to consumers, and vice-versa, all products linked to its source. That way, no product can be sold legally in that state that doesn’t come from a legal source.
Making it even more difficult for tech innovators to come up with a simple, uniform seed to sale tracking system is that there are no simple, uniform regulations across all legal medical marijuana states. In fact, the exact opposite is true: every state has different regulations requiring a different seed to sale tracking system for that state.
Franwell is a company that started out developing software for tracking fruit and berries which then adapted that software for the medical marijuana industry.
Laboratories are cropping up all over for testing the type and quantity of constituent active elements (or “cannabinoids”) and terpenes (or aromatic elements), and the existence of residual pesticides, chemical fertilizers, or other pathogens in cannabis. But it’s impractical for a cannabis dispensary to continually be sending out product to labs for testing.
Sage Analytics has addressed that problem by developing portable testing devices, allowing dispensaries to perform all quality control inspections in-house.
Integrated Compliance Solutions
The money changing hands in the medical marijuana industry must be managed wisely, responsibly, and above all, legally. This requires the development of banking software and services to provide integrated compliance solutions to medical marijuana businesses.
MedMen performs consulting and licensing services for cannabis companies, and sees banking and integrated compliance solutions as the fundament of the industry’s success. Another company, Amercanex, is developing a commodities exchange for cannabis. Beyond creating a trading market in marijuana futures, it also creates a technical infrastructure wherein cannabis farmers can lock in prices, creating sector stability.
Government Infrastructure Development
As alluded to in the intro to this piece, legalizing medical cannabis in a state isn’t enough. The state government then has to implement the new law through policies and regulations. For most states, this is untrodden territory.
Enter NIC, a business developed to help government regulators develop those policies and programs, and then to implement them through systematized software technologies.
In the end, it will be a contest between those innovators first to the market and those major players late to the game but with the resources to dominate to see which tech innovations take hold. One thing is for sure, however: some seed to sale tracking, quality control, integrated compliance solutions, and government infrastructure development technologies will be among them.