Blockchain, the technology that powers digital currencies like Bitcoin, will make a cannabis-sector debut in Australia with the help of Canadian cannabis app developer Global Cannabis. The company has announced that it will launch an Australian subsidiary called Global Cannabis Apps (Australia), and has tasked the new company with the development of blockchain software for use in the medical cannabis industry.
A blockchain, sometimes called distributed ledger technology, is distributed secure information recorded across a network of computers. Exciting, right? Surprisingly, yes. Blockchain is being seriously hyped by financial tech experts—drawing comparisons to the printing press, combustion engine, and even the internet in terms of its impact on society.
Why are people so excited about it?
Blockchain is the basis of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin because it uses a large peer-to-peer network to verify and record transactions, filling the “trust gap” between transacting individuals which has traditionally been bridged by a third party like a bank. By decentralizing and distributing the ledger (the record of transactions made in the currency), blockchain makes it very difficult for anyone to tamper with that record. This prevents fraud and double spending without having to pay a bank, lawyer, or other authenticator.
Proponents of the technology believe that allowing for individuals to make direct, trusted transactions will revolutionize commerce. But they also say that blockchain has many broader applications, such as verifying title in real estate, collecting taxes, or even managing health records. In the health sector, a distributed, trusted ledger could, for example, massively simplify the prescription of medicine to patients.
But critics of blockchain are skeptical, particularly when it comes to health data. One major concern is how to ensure the security of individuals’ private health records. Other critics have claimed that the technology is outrageously overhyped and has few real applications outside of cryptocurrency.
Now blockchain will be put to the test in Australia’s emergent medical cannabis sector. An early project for Global Cannabis’ Australian arm will be a partnership with BuddingTech, a medical cannabis accelerator focused on providing better data for clinical trials in the medical cannabis industry. Collaborating with BuddingTech, Global Cannabis Australia will task a software team with the development of both a blockchain technology and a regulatory artificial intelligence technology for the medical cannabis industry.
As Australia completes legalization of medical cannabis, clinical trial data will become more and more important to Australian companies developing cannabis-based medicines. Clinical trials are not only a prerequisite for registration of a drug with Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration, they are also critical for building confidence in a product or company and thus attracting investment.
A distributed ledger of clinical trial data could therefore have huge potential in Australia’s fledgling cannabis industry. The software could also provide the foundation for controling and securing prescriptions of medical cannabis products, which would go a long way to addressing concerns about diversion of medical cannabis into recreational black markets.
Global Cannabis see even broader applications. CEO Brad Moore wants to build in Australia and the roll-out to other markets. “By establishing the most trusted data supply for the medical cannabis industry in one of the toughest regulatory environments, we will have a model that we can expand into other emerging medical cannabis countries,” he said.
This won’t be the first marriage between blockchain technology and cannabis. In the US, where cannabis is still technically illegal under federal law, Potcoin allows for transactions between patients and cannabis businesses in states where medical cannabis has been legalized.