Coevolution of Blockchain Technology and Cannabis Appellations

 In Appellations

Author: Luke Khoury, Senior Scientist

In both antiquity and the modern world, novel technologies solve society’s greatest obstacles to progress. Blockchain technology is one such tool. Synonymous with Bitcoin in mainstream media, blockchain technology developed a purely peer-to-peer version of electronic cash transaction without requiring a trusted third party.1 Utilizing cryptographic proof, instead of trust, to transact information builds a case for blockchain application in a nearly endless list of industries. Finance, healthcare, agriculture, governance, privacy and security, and voting are several instances in which blockchain application improves efficiency and quality.2,3 In short, the pinnacle function of a blockchain delivers through a decentralized peer-to-peer network, incentivizing operators to maintain and verify a timestamped ledger of indelible transactions that contain data resistant to manipulation. Experts in the field understand the invention of blockchain technology as an evolutionary force never before seen.4 The cannabis industry must ask itself how it can benefit from adoption of this technology. Quality assurance, verification and traceability, and intellectual property (IP) protection and management are areas of particular interest as they relate to emerging cannabis appellations.

There are significant benefits in initiating infrastructure for cannabis goods; our laboratory recognized this potential and continues to develop and characterize appellations of origin for cannabis. Evidenced by the successes of similar system and approach in the craft beer and wine industries, an increase in social acceptance of cannabis, especially high-quality cannabis, creates an expectation that the product’s provenance and production methodologies will increase in social relevance as well. This process of social attunement to new products also relates to improvements in public education, ultimately enhancing consumer awareness and empowerment. As craft cannabis goods reach and then interest the public through the lens of genuine, appellation-specific varietals, consumer interest thereby enhances economic opportunities for legacy growers and breeders who drive development of appellations. With infrastructure such as the appellation system in place, blockchain technology addresses and simplifies typical issues and complications that arise in the cannabis industry, including quality assurance of products, authenticity, and IP of relevance to varietals.

The application of blockchain along with advancements in genomics yields opportunities for cultivators and breeders to sequence their cannabis genomes and publish a timestamped record on a decentralized data base.5 This process provides unique protection for breeders from future infringement as the corporatization of cannabis plant patents ensues. For craft cannabis producers, this demonstration of prior use ensures economic stability and growth of their businesses. Through partnerships with Sonoma Lab Works that characterize quality and verify appellations of origin, craft producers can expand their portfolio of genetics with increasing detail of the chemotypes they yield. To enhance economic opportunities for this industry and foster collective interest in establishing appellations, collaboration is key. This includes collaboration between craft cannabis producers and genomic companies. When applying Sonoma Lab Works’ advanced analytical capabilities, collaboration also better protects the rightful IP. As the globalization of the cannabis industry advances, blockchain technology and cannabis appellations coevolve and inevitably intersect.

1. Nakamoto, S. 2008. “Bitcoin: A peer-to-peer electronic cash system.”
2. Casino, F., Dasaklis, T.K., Patsakis, C. 2018. “A systematic literature review of blockchain-based applications: current status, classification, and open issues. Telematics and Informatics. doi: 10.1016/j.tele.2018.11.006.
3. Kammilaris, A., Prenafeta-Boldu, F. X. 2019. “The rise of blockchain technology in agriculture and food supply chains.” Trends in Food Science & Technology. doi: 10.1016/j.tifs.2019.07.034.
4. Kevin McKernan. “ Blockchains & Cannabis Genomes.” YouTube. Aug. 22, 2017.
5. McKernan, K. J., et al. 2018. “Cryptocurrencies and zero mode wave guides: an unclouded path to a more contiguous Cannabis sativa L. genome assembly.” doi: 10.17605/OSF.IO/N98GP.

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