Cannabis has been gaining mainstream momentum for years now. It started with the legalization of medical marijuana in California in 1996. In 2012, Washington and Colorado were the first US states to legalize pot for recreational use; seven more states eventually followed suit. And one week ago, on October 17, Canada became only the second country in the world to legalize the recreational use of cannabis. Many view this move by the Canadian government as a win for personal choice, but the impact reaches far beyond the individual. Pot is big business and tech is front and centre when it comes to the marijuana industry.
Legalizing cannabis has spawned the expansion of an industry that was once underground. Terms such as weedpreneur and cannabiz/canabusiness refer to people embracing these new opportunities. BDS Analytics is projecting legal cannabis sales will grow to $22.6B in Canada by 2021. Much of that growth is being seen in the tech sector involving companies that do genetic testing, robotic harvesting, crop data analysis, and even yeast-based manufacturing. Startups are cropping up everywhere and smaller operations are growing quickly. Here’s one example of a company offering data and analytics for legal cannabis:
New West Summit & the Fostering of Tech
In mid-October, the fourth annual New West Summit Marijuana conference took place in Oakland, California. This cannabis tech gathering is “the first conference to focus exclusively on the game-changing, disruptive developments in technology, investment, and media within the cannabis space”. With 100 exhibitors, 50 panels, and 150 speakers, this group looked like any other tech affair, with the occasional aging hippie thrown in the mix.
The summit attracted an international contingency. Speakers ranged from elite athletes to CEOs. There was even a career fair featuring positions from entry level to executive level. Tech issues like cryptocurrency and blockchain were discussed. The business of government regulation and investment headlined talks. There was a seminar for startups on how to improve pitch decks and secure funding. All of these topics related to an exploding cannabis industry.
It’s postulated that a tech-driven, agile industry accustomed to risks is a good companion for rapidly changing policies that involve government regulation, business owners and consumers. In short, tech and legalized cannabis are in-doobie-tably a match. From regulation to finances, tech is driving the cannabis industry.
In Canada, tech-based companies are finding success in the business of cannabis.
- Leaf Forward—a cannabis business accelerator
- Ample Organics and Trellis—seed-to-sale software
- Anandia Labs—testing, genetics, and research
- Leafly—overall information resource
- Growratio—innovative, technologically-based growing systems
Marijuana is a plant, making pot an agricultural endeavor. Growers are interested in things like yield, turnaround and market demand for certain strains. Making recreational cannabis consumption legal means the government is now a supplier—the only legal supplier. Along with medical marijuana, the purveyor of pot will need to increase the harvest to meet demand. How will this work?
The co-founder of High Times Magazine, Ed Rosenthal, believes marijuana should be industrialized. He advocates for robots tending plants in greenhouses. Rosenthal believes machines will do a better and more precise job than humans. But there’s also the high-end cannabis argument that small batch pot should be grown in sunlight and certified organic soil. As with any commodity, consumers will vote with their dollars and influence future production.
Pharma is even getting in on the game with a cannabis-based anti-seizure medication getting approval this year. Some people feel that cannabis could be the answer to the opioid crisis by providing an alternative medication. All of these possible applications will need management, and that’s where the tech industry sees opportunity.
Testing the Legal Limit of Legalized Cannabis
One area of legalized cannabis leaning on tech is regulation. Along with testing and verification, policing marijuana use is a big part of regulation. The government of Canada’s stance on driving high can be found here. In Ontario, police officers will be authorized to use oral fluid screening devices roadside. Once a federally approved device is available, the plan is to use these to help enforce the law.
Parallels between alcohol and pot are common, with some provinces aligning consumption of the substances when it comes to legal matters. Fluids aren’t necessarily a good way to test for pot because THC can remain in the blood for weeks. Another option is to study the viability of a kind of pot breathalyzer. But it’s difficult to measure THC because alcohol and pot are metabolized differently. That means a breathalyzer designed to detect THC would need to be extremely sensitive.
High Time for Change with Legalized Cannabis
The legalization of recreational cannabis use in Canada is sure to bring about a lot of change. Whether it affects your HR policy or you’re directly involved with the industry, a video can help spread the word. Call us today for a free quote.