Canada’s largest pharmacy chain announced its plans on Monday to use blockchain technology to trace the source of the medicinal cannabis it distributes.
Shoppers Drug Mart with about 1,300 pharmacies across Canada is partnering with TruTrace Technologies Inc. on a pilot program that will use blockchain to ensure the traceability of cannabis used by medical patients.
Both companies hope to set new standards for the thriving cannabis industry in Canada but also internationally.
What is blockchain technology?
Popularized by its use in the creation of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, blockchain is a decentralized digital registry used to record transactions in a verifiable manner.
For TruTrace Chief Executive Officer Robert Galarza, it’s “the ability to record data rapidly, cryptographically secured, it’s all encrypted and it’s not able to be hacked or changed”.
With regards to cannabis, this technology would help trace the different aspects of cannabis and in the end create standardized data that can then be used in the medical field. It would help doctors prescribe the right strains to their patients and contribute to the clinical trials that are underway in many parts of the industry.
How is Cannabis traced today?
If we look at the cannabis sold in Canada today, “the one core facet of those products that currently isn’t yet been controlled has been the product identification”, explains Robert Galarza, “so a lot of it has been traced through straining and product identification given by the producers as opposed to the specific genetic and chemistry make-up of the product.”
For the CEO of TruTrace, this lack of specific information is the reason why the traditional medical community does not trust cannabis.
Shoppers vice president Ken Weisbrod told AFP news agency that for patients to feel confident about using medical cannabis, its source must be “traceable and accountable”.
A new partnership to set standards in the industry
TruTrace Technologies Inc. sees a lot of potential in this new partnership with Shoppers Drug Mart to “be a part of a pathway forward for patient information and medical community at large to really be able to look at cannabis in a better light”.
Shoppers plans to launch the pilot project this summer and deploy it in pharmacies by November 2019.
Medical cannabis has been legal in Canada since 2001, and its recreational use was completely legalized in October 2018.
About 5.4 Canadians have purchased cannabis since October, including some 600,000 who said they had recently tried it for the first time, according to federal statistics agency.
You can listen to the full interview with Robert Galarza here:
With files from AFP