Using blockchain to enable consistency in medical cannabis

One of the biggest hurdles that medical cannabis faces in its path towards mainstream acceptance is that it’s incredibly hard to create pharmaceutical-like consistency in the product. This is true of any plant-based therapy, as slight variations in the growth cycle from yield to yield can and do result in changes to the final product. In other words, last year’s harvest is going to be a little different from this year’s harvest, no matter how hard you try to recreate the conditions. This is a far cry from modern pharmaceuticals which can be replicated with very little deviation from batch to batch.

These differences don’t have to be big to matter from a medical perspective. There’s a growing body of evidence that shows the efficacy of cannabis is related to something called the “entourage effect,” in which the terpenes, cannabinoids (both major and minor), and other components of the plant interact with one another to create an effect that is different from the sum of its parts. Because of this, there are an incredibly high number of variables to work with, where even a tiny change can make a big difference in the user experience — exactly what you don’t want in a medical treatment, or even for medical trials.

While advancements in cannabis agriculture tech do their best to help growers recreate exacting conditions time and time again, blockchain and advanced testing provide the tools for measuring and maintaining consistency across harvests. This is especially true when the volume of data associated with tracking every batch and harvest will continue to grow over time. Blockchain provides rapid and secure access to all of this big data. Moreover, this same technology plays a critical role in ensuring the quality of concentrates, edibles, and other extract-based cannabis products. And as progress continues to be made on the digital front, the possibility of truly standardizing cannabis for medical treatments becomes more and more a reality.

The key to it all is how blockchain creates a permanent, verifiable record every step of the way. Growers can use blockchain to track environmental factors, watering and fertilizing schedules, soil test results, and more to exactly recreate growing conditions year after year. It can also record detailed lab analytics from seed to sale. This lays the groundwork for a standardized product, especially when it comes to extract-derived cannabis offerings. While all of this testing and tracing certainly makes it more possible that a strain of flower will be the same year in and year out, when you combine rigorous growing conditions with the exacting control of lab-processed cannabis products, you have a real opportunity to compete with modern pharmaceuticals in terms of consistency.

And that is really the end goal for medical cannabis and other plant-based therapies. If a doctor can confidently prescribe a specific plant-derived treatment to a patient and know that there’s going to be no meaningful change in the chemical composition from batch to batch, that doctor will be more likely to prescribe that treatment. Science is predicated on the elimination of variables in the pursuit of a result, and blockchain-backed testing gives us the capabilities to do exactly that.

This is especially important now, when the U.S. government has recently opened up the scope of medical cannabis trials to include more growers and strains. This should spur new trials and discoveries, as it allows researchers to work with a far greater variety of cannabis than ever before. It’s an exciting and important time in the field of medical cannabis research, and we expect to see blockchain play a vital role in recording and preserving the scientific process along the way.

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