Tech

Ed Drake

Canada cannabis blockchain pilot hailed ‘future of medical cannabis’

A blockchain pilot for tracking cannabis strains in Canada is being hailed as “the future of medical cannabis,” with the expectation that retailers in the United States could soon follow suit.

The pilot is being trialed by Shoppers Drug Mart, part of a chain of around 1,300 pharmacies across Canada, Bloomberg reported. According to sources close to the project, the aim is to record strain information and treatment data on a blockchain, with the aim of reassuring both patients and doctors of the effectiveness of cannabis in treating a range of different ailments.

Ken Weisbrod, vice president of pharmacy business development and initiatives at Shoppers, said the platform was being closely watched by larger U.S. counterparts, and represented the future of the medical cannabis sector.

“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,” Weisbrod said.

TruTrace Chief Executive Officer Robert Galarza said the partnership would open doors for other significant retailers to adopt the technology. He noted:

“We think this push with Shoppers will hopefully lead into a similar relationship with the Walgreens and CVS’s 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.”

Yet despite being legally available since 2001, Weisbrod said many doctors in Canada were still reluctant to prescribe medical cannabis to patients.

“There are about 85,000 physicians in the country and the majority have not embraced this drug yet. Quite frankly, they need more information and more data about the drugs they’re putting their patients on,” he said.

However, with access to standardized data about strains and effects, the hope is that physicians can become better equipped to prescribe more effectively.

“They can say, ‘This particular product, strain, cultivar has this chemistry component and my patient is consistently on this drug and he’s gotten great outcomes.’ Then we can start triangulating that data. This is a huge leap for the industry,” Weisbrod said.

Trials of the track-and-trace blockchain platform are being eagerly monitored by retailers in the U.S., including Walgreens and CVS.

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