technology Archives - Green Market Report

StaffOctober 8, 2021
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Green Market Report asked some of the top technology leaders in the cannabis industry for their thoughts on how tech is changing the cannabis world. Here’s what we learned:

Simplifya Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer Marion Mariathasan

   “Technology in every industry has enabled advancement to happen faster, and the cannabis industry is no different. Due to the fragmented regulatory environment, we knew remaining compliant would be a real challenge for businesses, but one that could be addressed through the creation of advanced technologies. We set out to take what was previously an archaic way of approaching compliance and developed software that would help cannabis entrepreneurs save time and money, drive efficiencies and create new opportunities. Beyond owners and operators, we also see technologies playing a vital role in how governments, regulatory bodies, insurers, cannabis-related banking and financial institutions also remain compliant under FinCEN Cannabis Banking Guidance. 

Whether it’s POS, data, commerce, social networks or compliance, technology continues to allow the industry to solve some of its most challenging problems while accelerating growth at a rapid rate. As Simplifya enters the multi-million dollar banking, financial and payment-related services sector, we plan to debut new software and advanced technologies that automates and simplifies mandated complex processes necessary to keep the industry moving ahead in a compliant way.” 

Marion Mariathasan is the CEO of Simplifya, the cannabis industry’s leading regulatory and operational compliance software platform. The company’s suite of products takes the guesswork out of confusing and continually changing state and local regulations. Featuring SOPs, badge tracking, document storage, tailored reporting and employee accountability features, the company’s Custom Audit software reduces the time clients spend on compliance by up to 45 percent. 

Marion is also a serial entrepreneur who has founded or advised numerous startups. He is an investor in 22 domestic and international companies, four of which he serves as a board member: Ceylon Solutions, a cannabis and non-cannabis software development company; Leafwire, the largest cannabis social network; ilios, a relationship app that matches users based on characteristics derived from astrology and numerology algorithms; and Simplifya. Marion is a regular guest speaker at events such as Denver Start-Up Week, Colorado University’s program on social entrepreneurship, and the United Nations Global Accelerator Initiative. 

 


Jushi Holdings Inc. Chief Creative Director Andreas “Dre” Neumann

“In the cannabis sector, digital consumers are in the driver’s seat. We believe technologies will continue to play a critical role, and that by taking the time to implement research, data and digital technologies, we have a competitive advantage. By constantly studying trends data, we foresaw that the digital and physical retail convergence would accelerate with the rapid growth of home delivery and express channels. Early on we were focused on ways to remove friction, build trust, and fine tune the entire customer experience. We use research data and technology-based omnichannel strategies to seamlessly serve the needs of the widest range of customers, and that really goes to the core of our ethos of improving peoples’ lives.

At a higher level, we’ve also integrated our data sources and spent time building out a custom data warehouse. This has not only helped us break down information silos, but has also allowed us to understand the business and our customers much more holistically. We plan to keep evolving with new technologies and programs that drive efficiencies in our retail experiences and operations. I’ve always been a big advocate for technological solutions — none of this would be possible without it — so for us, tech will be a priority for the future of Jushi and instrumental in defining the entire cannabis sector.”

In his role at Jushi, Dre and his creative team are charged with leading Jushi’s creative, marketing and communications efforts as well as ensuring the company’s successful entrance into e-commerce, cutting-edge digital user experiences and his efforts have already brought a tremendous amount of added value to the company and its shareowners. 

Dre is a serial entrepreneur who has founded numerous successful creative and technology companies and is a disruptive thinker, who before joining Jushi, served as the creative director and head of content for Idean, a leading global design agency that creates powerful digital experiences and uses design as a strategic tool to transform companies. He founded a partnership with British multinational communications and advertising agency network with 114 offices in 76 countries and over 6,500 staff, Saatchi & Saatchi UK, where he implemented creative strategies such as launching a branded content unit called Gum in an effort to reach more young people, who are increasingly tuning out traditional advertising. 

In addition to being a known and respected leader in the creative and technology arenas, Dre is known for his photography and work with artists such as Queens of the Stone Age, Iggy Pop, Foo Fighters, ZZ Top, Lenny Kravitz, and many others. He has also been cited as one of the world’s top rock photographers and will be featured in an upcoming documentary on Amazon scheduled to premiere in early 2021.

 

Navin Anand, Chief Technology Officer at springbig

“The cannabis industry is adopting native and cloud technologies at an ever increasing rate. Computing power has increased exponentially (at an affordable cost), so we all have supercomputers on hand, which helps development teams tackle AI/ML problems, predictive analysis, user segmentation, early fraud detection and more. Technology also has added tremendous value in the form of agri-tech, cloud evolution, and data science for improving this industry as a whole.

At springbig, we are leveraging technology to push the limits and capture trends that help our merchants achieve goals above and beyond 100%. The spingbig platform provides the ability for our partners to be in constant contact with end users. We have other offerings that provide numerous opportunities for improvement of user experience, instore, e-commerce and omni.”

Navin is the CTO of springbig, a leading provider in customer loyalty and text message communications solutions for cannabis retailers and cannabis brands. Founded in 2017, springbig offers a single source of truth CRM that becomes the database of record for in-store and online customers that captures key purchasing and behavioral data and seamlessly integrates with existing dispensary POS and eCommerce systems. Navin has over 15 years experience in software engineering including leading a team of 100 engineers at Verifone, one of the world’s largest multinational payment processing and POS solution providers. In his time at Verifone, Navin crafted solutions for blue-chip brands including McDonalds, YUM Brands, and Visa.

Navin is recognized as a data-driven leader and problem solver who is able to streamline the software engineering delivery and QA process through advanced systems automation and project management, reducing time to delivery and aligning various IT sub-departments into a common system that speak the same language.

 

 

 

Cathy Corby Iannuzzelli, Co-Founder and Chief Payments Officer at KindTap

“As a fintech company in the cannabis space, we can wholeheartedly say that technology is shaping the future of the industry with the consumer at the forefront of the conversation. From convenience to compliance and now even our credit payment option with loyalty points, advances in technology are bringing the consumer the best experience possible while still keeping all the backend bells & whistles legally sound.”

Cathy Corby Iannuzzelli is a payments executive with extensive experience in prepaid, debit, credit, and emerging payments and broad and deep knowledge of issuing and acquiring sides of the market. In 2019, Cathy joined KindTap, a fintech company with a team that was focused on the same cannabis payments problem she spotted a few years back. Together in September 2021, they formally launched KindTap and are the first company to bring a credit payment option to the cannabis industry. 

KindTap launched first to the Massachusetts market and will hit multiple US markets, including Florida, Maine, and New York by the end of 2021, bringing consumers immediate, revolving credit lines for upfront cannabis purchases and allowing merchants to seamlessly accept digital credit payments.  About 3 years ago while working for a client in Denver, Cathy became aware of how broken payments were in cannabis. Broken isn’t even the right word – payments simply didn’t exist in the cannabis market. Cathy’s pioneering spirit kicked-in and she refocused her consulting to the cannabis segment. 

 

 

 

Socrates Rosenfeld, Co-founder & CEO of Jane Technologies

“Our goal at Jane has always been to provide value for the entire ecosystem; we want customers to make informed purchasing decisions, and we want sellers to succeed. As the largest e-commerce platform in North American cannabis, the digitization of the industry has allowed us to keep the industry in line with the mainstream, allowing shopping for cannabis to be as accessible as shopping online for everything else in the world, all while ensuring an even playing field for brands and dispensaries.”

Socrates Rosenfeld is the Co-Founder and CEO of Jane Technologies. Socrates began using cannabis as a way to re-acclimate to civilian life upon return from active duty, but found himself questioning the origins of cannabis since it was illegal at the time. Fast forward to today and Socrates is now the founder and CEO of Jane Technologies- the e-commerce solution for legal cannabis retailers and brands. He holds a B.S. in Leadership & Management Studies from the United States Military Academy at West Point Academy and an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management. He is a U.S. Army Veteran and previously served as a commander of an Apache helicopter company. 

 


StaffJuly 28, 2021
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Prior to being appointed CTO of Akerna, David McCullough served as Akerna’s Executive Vice President of Product & Engineering, overseeing all software development, development operations, quality assurance, automations, systems, and security operations. He has 16 years of Software Engineering experience. Before joining Akerna, he was the CTO of StudentPublishing.com, where he actively managed the technical aspects of Student Publishing’s sale to and systems integration with lulu.com. David has extensive government systems experience and was also a professor at New Mexico State University where he taught courses in data communications and networking. 

 

GMR Executive Spotlight Interview Q & A:

 

Title:

Chief Technology Officer (CTO)

Company:

Akerna

Years at current company:

Six

Most successful professional accomplishment before cannabis:

Before David’s work in cannabis, he invented an online self-publishing software that allows schools and children to create and publish books online to be published as physical books and returned to the writer.

Company Mission:

We are passionate about solving problems that better our world. Akerna provides data-driven cannabis solutions worldwide across the entire cannabis supply chain. Our technology empowers the cannabis industry to prove outcomes that positively change lives every day.

Company’s most successful achievement:

Our CEO, Jessica Billingsley, co-founded the company that invented seed-to-sale tracking in 2010. This was done upon identifying the need for organic material tracking and compliance SaaS solutions in the nascent cannabis industry. We recognized that due to the unique complexities and needs of the industry, cannabis needed technology built for it specifically, not just adapted from other industries. We believed visibility across the entire supply chain from seed-to-sale would be a requirement for the industry’s sustained growth. Today, this type of tracking is a requirement of most states that regulate legal cannabis.

In 2017, we launched MJ Platform, the cannabis industry’s first ERP in response to the maturing of the cannabis market to multi-state enterprise businesses. We also led international expansion in the cannabis technology sector very early on in 2012 in Canada then into Spain. Today, our total footprint spans 23 states and 15 countries. Innovation and seeing what opportunities are next on the horizon – and then being ready for them first – has been a hallmark of Akerna since the inception of our flagship product MJ Freeway.

In 2019, Akerna became the first cannabis software business to be traded on a major U.S. exchange, Nasdaq (ticker KERN). This listing was an unprecedented milestone for the cannabis industry and signified a shift in beliefs and generated ripples of opportunity for the future of the industry.

Since then, we have grown the Akerna family to include many leading cannabis and alcohol technology solution s: Ample Organics,  Last Call Analytics,  Leaf Data Systems,  MJ Freeway/MJ Platform, solo sciences, Trellis, and Viridian Sciences.

Today,  Akerna is the cannabis industry’s only scaled technology provider, enabling compliance, regulation, and taxation. We provide the single most comprehensive product ecosystem for cannabis operators that have businesses across any part of the supply chain, from seed-to-sale. This provides transparency and accountability along virtually every piece of the supply chain.

Over the past decade, we have seen much change in the political and social environments surrounding cannabis. As we prepare for a post-legalization landscape and the industry continues to consolidate and mature, we firmly believe the enterprise capabilities we offer, including comprehensive compliance solutions and financial reporting integrations, will become increasingly crucial to the future leaders of the cannabis industry.

Has the company raised any capital (yes or no): 

Yes

If so, how much?

Since going public Akerna has raised $22,000,000

Any plans on raising capital in the future?

 We feel we are well capitalized today and continue to have institutional support and access to the markets should the need arise.  We are always carefully evaluating the needs of the business to maximize long-term shareholder value. 

Most important company  5  year  goal:

To be the dominant provider of technology to the cannabis, hemp, and CBD industries, while also serving additional verticals by providing complete accountability and transparency to what consumers are putting in and on their bodies.


StaffDecember 9, 2020
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Editors Note: This is a guest post.

Wall Street experts project the CBD industry to swell to more than 22 billion dollars over the next two years. Within a decade that number is projected to exponentially grow towards 75 billion dollars. As is with any big industry boom, everyone wants a piece of the action. Fortunately, with CBD hemp there is plenty of pie to go around. And technology plays a big role in the CBD industry from seed to shelf and beyond. 

This article goes over four important aspects of the CBD industry and how technology shapes and molds the big boom of CBD oil.

Tech-Centered CBD Hemp Farming

Farming is labor-intensive process that requires lots of tedious work. It’s no wonder that tech steps in to make certain processes and tasks more efficient. Equipment and machines that speed up tasks such as potting, planting, and digging aren’t the only kinds of technology on the farm. Visit a tech-centered hemp farm and you’ll find RFID tags on plants, biometric security systems, and incredibly advanced. 

Complex and sensitive instruments measure every aspect of the environment including soil, water, air, light, and more. Dehumidifiers, air conditioners, barometers, and all types of monitoring systems turn processing and drying harvested hemp flower into an exact science. 

CBD Extraction Tech

Extracting the beneficial compounds from hemp flower is likely the biggest tech-influenced niche in the CBD industry. Extraction is the process of separating the unwanted waxy plant materials from the desirable hemp compounds like phytocannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. 

Different extraction techniques create numerous types of different CBD products (click here to learn more about Hawaiian Haze) generally referred to as extracts and concentrates. Some concentrates such as hash are readily made by hand, but thanks to advancements in extraction technology today’s extracts are much more complex and varied. 

High-level extraction equipment comes with a high-level price tag. Furthermore, while some types of extraction machines are simple, the top tier processors require engineers and scientific consultants to calibrate and operate their equipment properly. 

All of this combined creates a madly complex niche that takes up a huge portion of that projected 75 billion projection for the CBD industry over the next ten years. Some products produced by extraction include –

  • Vape cartridges
  • Dabs, Wax, Oil, Shatter
  • Rosin
  • CBD oil
  • Pure phytocannabinoid-rich CBD hemp oil concentrate
  • And more 

CBD Oil Product Effectiveness

Technology is also creating more effective CBD products for the CBD market, and better, more efficient products. In a free-market world, better products and lower prices that consumers want to buy are the name of the game.

Advances in the micro-encapsulation of beneficial hemp compounds such as CBD create a higher bioavailability for consumers. This means that they can get more effect and benefit from less product, saving them money and time. 

Custom crafted hemp compounds combinations and recipes are also unlocking the incredible therapeutic potential within phytocannabinoids and terpenes. There are hundreds of different beneficial compounds in hemp, each with unique properties and benefits. Every type or strain of hemp expresses various combinations and ratios of these compounds giving them a “fingerprint”. 

As hemp laws relax, extraction techniques advance and our scientific understanding of hemp compounds grows, hemp follower suppliers like MrHempFlower are leveraging new chemistry and molecular tech to meet the growing market’s insatiable appetite for novel phytocannabinoid and terpene combinations. 

It’s within this niche that lies some of the greatest opportunities for patentable intellectual property through novel phytocannabinoid and terpene products. 

AI and AR in the CBD industry

Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and augmented reality comprise another handful of technologies molding the shape of the growing CBD industry. Farmers use AI and big data to improve soils, keep track of inventory and plants, improve workflow within facilities, and understand market trends. 

On the market and advertising end, augmented reality offers businesses a fascinating approach to modeling, presentation, and retail.

AI and AR together are transforming the hemp industry into something hyper-interesting and new, shifting a once rebellious and illegal counter culture into a hipster-type health endeavor with all the bells and whistles. 

Blockchain and Crypto in the Hemp Industry

While governmental policies and regulations have placed plenty of roadblocks in front of the world’s biggest boom since the internet bubble, nothing can stop what is coming. A big aspect of the CBD industry has been banking and many of the world’s biggest companies have had their fair share of issues. Here steps in blockchain technology. 

Blockchain technology combined with cryptocurrency allows CBD businesses not legally permitted to operate with normal banking and financing to purchase and move money without much governmental regulation or oversight.

Niche Tech for Green CBD Industry Investors

Anyone seeking the biggest growth sectors will find immense opportunities within the various tech-centered niches shaping the CBD industry. These technologies are driving factors in this market and if you can find yourself in the right place at the right time, you may still be able to get in on the action. 

Just know that the best time to get in was yesterday, so don’t hesitate. 


StaffJuly 20, 2018
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Part 3 of 8 for 2018 Cannabis Trends: Increased demand domestically and internationally promote advancements in agricultural technology.

Agricultural technology in the cannabis industry is undergoing some big big changes and, in 2018, expect those changes to continue to accelerate towards automated, wireless, and efficient. The biggest catalyst for change is the Canadian cannabis market. Cannabis companies across the nation are signing supply agreements with Canadian provinces, and in order to meet those demands they are building massive production facilities.

For example, several months ago the cannabis giant Canopy Growth Corp. recently signed a supply agreement with Prince Edward Island to supply the province with 1 million grams of cannabis annually. Canopy has also signed similar agreements with other Canadian provinces.

To keep up with this demand, Canopy is currently in the process of constructing two massive production facilities; one that will total 1.3 million square feet of growing space and the other totaling to about 1.7 million square feet. Once you figure in Canopy’s other production facilities, the company is expected to have over 5 million square feet of growing space; which is astonishing.

In order to manage all of the space, cannabis companies are looking for ways to improve efficiency and automation. Take Gavita for example. Gavita is a lighting and hydroponics company that recently became popular with cannabis growers ever since it was purchased by Scotts Miracle-Gro. Gavita’s most popular product used to be the 1000W DE HPS system but, as grower’s search for better efficiency, the 750W fixture has started to outsell it.

Expect the cannabis industry in 2018 to start moving away from traditional HPS lighting solutions in favor of both LED and Ceramic Metal Halide (CMH) Lighting.

LED lights have been on the market for years now, but it’s only been recently that the price of LEDs have become competitive. The big advantage of LEDs comes from the fact that they require less energy, emit less heat, and can manipulate the light spectrum to maximize growth. Some also claim that LEDs can help deter pests and bacteria growth, but there’s been little scientific research to confirm these claims.

The breakout star of AgTech this year, however, is going to be CMH lighting. Because of their unique properties, CMH lights are more efficient than HPS lights (350W per lamp vs. 1000W), are cheaper than LEDs, and have on average a Color Rendering Index (CRI) score of 90 out of 100. HPS lights only have a CRI score of between 20-30 and metal halide lights have a CRI range of 60-65.

In terms of automation, cannabis cultivators are looking to reduce as many simple tasks in the cultivation process as possible. Using platforms like Grownetics, cannabis cultivators can track their grows, automate lighting, and utilize big data to understand what works and what doesn’t.

Other companies are taking automation to a whole new level. For example, a startup in Boston called Bloom Automation is currently developing a robot that is capable of trimming cannabis plants. Although the robot is too expensive right now to employ on a massive scale, expect Bloom and other cannabis companies to start seeking similar solutions in both the short and long term.

For the short and long term, expect the world of cannabis agtech to bend towards automation and cheaper, less energy-intensive, lighting solutions. One company already moving in this direction is VividGro. Recently the company launched its first lightweight sustainable light fixture, GroBar, as well as announced the acquisition of home cannabis grow-app WeGrow; which the company hopes to use its technology to help provide more streamlined solutions to cannabis cultivators.

You can download the 2018 Cannabis Trend Report for free by clicking here.


Debra BorchardtJanuary 26, 2018
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Kyle Sherman, the founder of cannabis software company Flowhub knew he wanted to be a part of the cannabis industry. His personal experience with anti-depressants and his desire to rid himself of those drugs led to experimentation with medical marijuana. His success with that withdrawal gave him an intense passion to work towards legalizing cannabis so others could benefit as he had.

In 2014, he headed to Denver, Colorado as the legal cannabis market was blossoming. He worked with Dixie Elixirs, WeedMaps and ultimately ended up as a compliance officer. Through this work, he realized that there was no way to report to the seed-to-sale tracking software Metrc through an API (application program interface).

“I started to investigate and look for something that would work. Instead, I built a prototype,” said Sherman. He closed on a seed round of funding in 2015 for Flowhub and was the first to integrate with Metrc’s API. For the business owner, it provides automatic compliance with state regulators by sending back information directly. Flowhub also has a handheld device that cultivators can use to scan barcodes and track plant movement. It can track employee productivity as well, saving employers money and headaches.

On the retail side, Flowhub has a point-of-sale technology and can manage inventory. The company partnered with CannaPay for cashless payments. “We track everything,” said Sherman, noting that all of this tracking protects the business owner.

The California Challenge

His latest challenge is the California market. The state just began legal sales of adult-use marijuana on January 1, but the Metrc system is not in place yet and many businesses are operating with a temporary license. Sherman said he believes that companies will receive permanent licenses when Metrc goes live. “I also think some of the companies with temporary licenses won’t get permanent ones,” he said.

While the Denver market has embraced the regulatory environment, some Californians have been reluctant. “You’ve got folks who are open-minded to this shift and then you have other groups that are operating in the grey market and are resistant to change,” he said. “They don’t want to report to Metrc.” Sherman found this was a tough conversation to have with a lot of long-time cannabis businesses. “A lot of folks are not willing to look at solutions,’ he said.

Of course, at some point, these business rebels will have to capitulate and join the regulatory landscape or face getting shut down. Sherman noted that the savvier business owners realize they have to do this and aren’t fighting it.

 


Jack SmithDecember 15, 2017
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Marketing automation platform Baker, the self-described “Salesforce of Cannabis,” has received $8 million in a new Series A funding round.

The new funding will let the Colorado-based Baker keep growing, particularly in California and Washington, where it recently acquired Seattle-based Grassworks, the second-largest customer relationship management platform in the cannabis industry. It will also use the funds to open an office in Los Angeles, starting next year.

“We’ve built the industry’s leading CRM product, and now we’re truly focused on providing a platform to allow Baker and our partners to offer best-of-breed solutions to our massive retail network,” Joel Milton, CEO of Baker said in a statement. “This funding will allow us to continue to execute on our platform strategy, and help all of our clients grow their businesses — including those in California gearing up for adult use.”

The funding round was led by Poseidon Asset Management and includes other venture capital firms, such as Panther Opportunity Fund and Phyto Partners. It also included participation from previous investors. The $8 million in funding is on top of $3.75 million the company has previously raised.

Keeping Dispensaries Happy

Baker uses what it describes as unique “data-driven approach” to help cannabis dispensaries keep customers happy and boost revenue. The company boasts that its clients see a 40% boost in order size and a 300% return on investment in just six weeks. Its software is used by over 700 dispensaries across the country, helping the company attract the new funding.

Baker has also created a robust customer loyalty program that dispensaries are using to tap repeat business. Loyalty programs are relatively new to cannabis retailers but are quickly becoming a favorite way to communicate with customers.

“Baker has continued to grow at an impressive rate, and is breaking away from the pack in a big way,” said Morgan Paxhia, Co-founder and Managing Director at Poseidon Asset Management. “Unlike anyone else in the space, the team continues to cultivate and craft unique solutions for its customers and scale at a remarkable rate.”


Chuck EpsteinSeptember 23, 2017
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Call it good timing, fortuitous luck, or being in the right place at the right time, but the cannabis industry seems poised to become the most technological industry ever to develop.

cannabis4While the assembly line revolutionized auto manufacturing in 1913, this sole technological advance did not immediately change other elements critical to the car business, such as logistics, distribution, financing, vendor input and the vertical integration of manufacturing, sales, customer services and suppliers.

Flash forward 150 years, and the emerging cannabis industry is poised to benefit from faster, cheaper and more flexible computer, web and cloud, and servo technology than any industry ever launched. With these technologies now readily available and more affordable than ever, the cannabis industry has an added benefit:  It is able to attract investors via crowdfunding, as well as more traditional methods to use technology from the first day of any new cannabis company’s grand opening.

Now, the industry is poised to make a giant technological leap forward.

The reason: High technology is going to make sure the near future of cannabis will change significantly. Tech companies based on to Uber, Grubhub, Snapchat, Salesforce.com, Yelp and others already exist to provide the next generation of consumer marijuana business apps and services that will disrupt and streamline the business.  This includes changes in every element of the cannabis industry ranging from extraction, cultivation, vaporizers, and POS, CMS, auditing systems and even deliveries to customers.

The upcoming NewWest Summit to be held in Oakland bills itself as the “first conference to focus exclusively on the game-changing, disruptive developments in technology, investment and media within the Cannabis space.”  According to conference organizer Jim McAlpine, cutting-edge new technologies already exist to propel the industry forward to make it more attractive to investors and customers alike.

The event itself boasts panel discussions, including accredited investors and successful entrepreneurs, and in the past have included industry leaders such as Steve DeAngelo of the Harborside Health Center, the world’s largest dispensary and the CEO of the Eaze delivery service, which has recently closed a fundraising round for $27 million.  McAlpine’s events event attract about hundreds of exhibitors and a few thousand people over two-days.  Trading_Room

Follow the Money

McAlpine noted that the legal cannabis industry is projected to have a $10 billion annual economic impact nationally and the sector is “rapidly professionalizing.”  Based on a report from a cannabis industry investment and research firm, The ArcView Group in Oakland, California, the U.S. market for legal cannabis grew 74% in 2014 to $2.7 billion, an increase from $1.5 billion in 2013. And despite rumblings by most 2016 Republican presidential candidates to make marijuana illegal at the federal level, the cannabis industry is projected to generate $11 billion in sales annually nationwide by 2019, according to the ArcView report.

To date, nine states–California, Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada–have legalized full retail marijuana. Washington, D.C., voters also legalized recreational marijuana use. Twenty-nine states have legalized medical cannabis.

And despite promises from the majority of 2016 Republican presidential candidates to enforce federal law that would effectively repeal existing state de-criminalization initiatives, public opinion shows more people favor the decriminalization of marijuana nationwide than ever before.

Yet the legal uncertainties have not dampened the enthusiasm for this growing market and its adoption of new technology. According to Chris Gromek, Founder of Marijuanomics, one major engine behind the fast adaption of technology has been in the number of consultants. Gromek noticed that from attending two industry conferences four months apart, he saw more consultants offering fully-integrated, turn-key services that included everything from automated plant and growing operations to point-of-sales and compliance software. The full-service consulting firms in this space include Aperature Consulting and American Cannabis Co. Aperature offers services for people just entering the business to established operations who want to expand, according to their web site.

While these services can make a business owner’s job easier, they also will make the industry “super-competitive,” Gromek said. More competition also will be accompanied by falling product prices and this will squeeze profits dramatically, he added.

It will also spur the search for new customer services. For example, Gromek said his former employer MJIC Media started to sign up clients for membership packages and was working with groups, such as Lexaria that were expanding their CBD product line due to a new technique it discovered that drastically improves gastrointestinal absorption of cannabidiol, as well as CLS Holdings, an extraction firm.

An Awakening Technological and Social Giant

But despite the legal and political uncertainties, the cannabis industry’s huge growth potential has become a magnet for investors and technologists ready to adapt, sell or develop new automated tools for every aspect of this plant-based business. This includes everything technological from automated greenhouses for cultivators, to pharmaceutical-grade testing laboratories for assuring plant safety and quality, to an electronic product exchange to automated sales and customer services applications and even homes delivery services to patients.

One of the most advanced, core building blocks of any plant-based commodity business is an exchange where price discovery between buyers and sellers can take place on in an open marker. There are currently three such venues, Amercanex, CCX and CHEX.  These exchanges match buyers and sellers with a clearinghouse and financial guarantee feature.  In the case of Amercanex, the services provided include transportation, storing and quality grading all transacted on an electronic platform, according to Amercanex CEO Steve Janjik.

While research into cannabis is prohibited by US law, other nations hail its benefits.

While research into cannabis is prohibited by US law, other nations hail its benefits.

According to the company’s web site, the Amercanex exchange connects products, pricing, and availability that are all posted from multiple market participants.  These include growers, wholesale distributors and retail vendors who are all electronically connected on the marketplace. The best sell and buy prices are shown from the prices received from all participants within the state and network.

The Amercanex system also has anti-money laundering safeguards built into the system and the exchange works like “a banking system” that links buyers and sellers with a payment feature.

Bring It Home

Since this is the age of instant gratification, it only makes sense that someone would come up with the idea of home delivery for cannabis products.  While this feature has already been fully exploited by pizza and Chinese food restaurants, it is an established aspect of modern life.  The cannabis business is no different.  “On the retail end, Southern California has seen a proliferation of delivery services and medical marijuana dispensaries. Hartfield says there are about 1,800 dispensaries in and around Los Angeles, which is almost half of the approximately 5,000 dispensaries nationwide, according to a report in The Forward.

Another report in TechCrunch acknowledges the penchant for immediate gratification and the willingness of people to pay for it. “With mobile usage comes the right-now economy. Anything you want today will come to you on-demand, when you want it — and so shall cannabis. Enterprises are popping up everywhere that promise to deliver your medicine within the hour, and some will even provide a medical consultation via your mobile device. Hungry after you’ve consumed cannabis? Partnerships and cross-marketing opportunities with the $70 billion food-delivery and takeout industry are huge.”


Catherine GoldbergSeptember 15, 2017
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Very few people have heard of seed-to-sale management systems, but as the backbone of perhaps the most disruptive plant in modern times, the management of cannabis sales is having a profound impact on federal, state and local laws, including the all-important realms of law enforcement and tax revenue collections.

The cannabis industry’s impact on the nation’s law, business and culture is both profound and dynamic. Cannabis is now decriminalized in 26 states and the District of Columbia and is expected to generate about $28 billion in tax revenues for federal, state, and local governments, including $7 billion in federal revenue: $5.5 billion from business taxes and $1.5 billion from income and payroll taxes, according to the Tax Foundation.

Yet as both a relatively new recreational and medical product (cannabis for medical purposes was first legalized in California in 1996), this highly-regulated industry is subject to strict, state and local laws that have caused the industry to develop its own internal tracking systems, called seed-to-sale. These detailed, multi-purpose tracking systems prevent product abuse, while also assuring cannabis industry standards in regards to such key issues as product safety, supply chain management, medicinal quality, and restricted access by certain groups, such as people who are under age or have criminal records.

At the same time, these tracking systems hold sensitive information about patients, plant, inventory, and financial data. In a dynamic financially and regulatory marketplace, this information has to be secure and redundant. Any system outages can push states and businesses into noncompliance, which could trigger federal law enforcement intervention.

To meet this high bar of new and evolving standards, the cannabis industry has adopted the latest systems management technology offered by a variety of specialized vendors to implement what the industry calls a “seed-to-sale” system that tracks products as they are grown, sold and distributed through both medical and recreational channels. In short, these systems are the most sophisticated tracking and monitoring inventions ever developed for a plant in history.

A typical seed-to-sale software system can be used by growers, producers, dispensaries, state and local governments to track and regulate the activities and location of cannabis anywhere in its supply and distribution route, from cultivation to consumption. Commercial versions of these systems are used by dispensary owners, cultivators, manufacturers, processors, and other licensed cannabis business owners to improve inventory management, chain of custody, sales, pilferage, and point of sale tracking.

According to BioTrack THC, a seed-to-sale software developer, the systems are primarily used by growers, producers and dispensaries to help assist in day to day operations, streamlining their businesses while at the same time keeping them in compliance with their local and state laws with regards to production, processing, sales, and taxation.

These systems can produce accurate records related to assure product quality from the time of planting to medical process; detecting product pilferage, theft and product distribution and sales.

Daniel Sparks, Director of Government Affairs with BioTrackTHC, said that in some states, business owners are required to affix a barcode to each plant and a separate tag to each sell-able product. When a cannabis product is being transported, the transporter is required to notify the state and have proper documentation during the transport. BioTrackTHC allows users to create barcodes as well as transportation manifests that reflect the information that is required by the state. “We are being used in every state that allows for commercial cannabis businesses. No matter what state your business is located in, our system will allow you to comply with the laws and regulations for cannabis tracking,” Sparks said.

Seed-to-sale systems are used by regulators to detect when and where violations occur. This data can then be used to detect supply chain irregularities, so they can be investigated and corrected.

There is also the critical issue of tax revenue monitoring and collection. While most patients and customers will never need to know the details of any seed-to-sale system, states are keenly interested since they are the backbone of compliance and tax collection activities. If industry projections are even close, cannabis sales are estimated to be $24 billion by 2025.

Currently, the tax revenues from cannabis production and sales have become a welcome addition to state budgets. In Washington, $256 million in excise taxes were collected in 2016 from retail, processor and producer sales. In 2016, Colorado received $199 million in tax and fee revenues from cannabis sales.

Making Systems Secure in the Cloud

These systems also need to be secure. As a result, some firms have begun using the cloud environment authorized by the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program. Known as “FedRAMP,” this system offers highest level of data security available and is also expected to increase the speed of any state’s seed-to-sale trace system. FedRAMP is a government-wide program to deliver a standardized approach to security assessment, authorization, and continuous monitoring for cloud products and services. To date, FedRAMP is being used by BioTrackTHC State Traceability System, while Kind Financial’s Agrisoft Seed to Sale is hosted on Microsoft’s Azure Government platform.

Adam Orens, an economist and policy analyst with the Marijuana Policy Group, Denver, said the origins of the seed-to-sale systems can be traced to the Cole Memorandum and its law enforcement guidance issued to federal prosecutors of cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act. The memo, authored by Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole, lists eight priorities that effectively gave enforcement control to states where medical and recreational cannabis was legalized provided they could monitor and enforce the key guidelines. As stated in the memo, states should have “strong and effective regulatory enforcement systems” that “contain robust controls and procedures on paper.”

This memo provided the impetus for developing seed-to-sale systems, Orens said. Looking ahead, Orens said there will be more emphasis on technology to make these systems more elaborate. Providers also will become more competitive. “However, in the end, these systems could become less restrictive as more states legalize cannabis and the federal government loosens some restrictions, so diversions to other states, for example, will not matter as much. In the end, these systems will revert back to commercial applications with an emphasis on light tracking. For instance, liquor and tobacco are not tracked the way cannabis is across the nation, so the cannabis tracking system could resemble the one used to enforce food safety and cosmetics regulations,” Orens said.

Major Participants in the Seed-to-Sale Industry

The variety of companies that provide seed-to-sale compliance and inventory management software are as varied as the industry itself. Some of the company’s came from managing complex accounting challenges, while others tracked narcotics abuses, or were created by people who ran dispensaries and needed better software to manage their businesses. Here is a list of some of the top providers in the seed-to-sale industry.

BioTrackTHC

BioTrackTHC originally was formed as BioTech Medical Software to help combat the prominent “pill mill” problem in Florida, where doctors were dispensing and prescribing powerful narcotics for inappropriate, non-medical reasons, according to the company. BioTrackTHC was formed independently from BioTech’s original narcotics tracking software, built from the ground up, so it could be designed to meet the unique features of tracking the cannabis plant from seed-to-sale. This system is used by states, dispensaries and growers.

As medical cannabis became more popular around 2010, the company was asked by cannabis entrepreneurs to apply its system to the cannabis industry in order to comply with state and local laws.

Today, BioTrackTHC is used by about 2,000 licensed cannabis professionals. The system uses a State Traceability System in Amazon Web Services’ GovCloud for its state medical marijuana program. While FedRAMP is a federal program, the authorization gives Hawaii’s cannabis regulators the highest level of data security available and is also expected to increase the speed of the state’s Traceability System, company officials said.

The BioTrackTHC State Traceability System allows state and local government agencies to track the production, transportation, destruction and sales of legal cannabis. Regulators can see each gram of cannabis throughout its production life cycle, so it is compliant with industry standards and state laws. This system is being used in Washington, New Mexico, Illinois, Hawaii and New York, according to the company.

The system’s key features include a “fully-controlled” system which tracks system accessibility and who took what actions and its final result. The system also can recall products in real-time (when directed by the state), so the products cannot be sold. If a dispensary tries to sell a recalled product, the system will issue a warning notification. The state’s system and, in turn the system itself, will restrict them from being able to sell it based on the fact that it’s bar code/16 digit tracking number is locked in the BioTrackTHC system.

For states and dispensaries, the system also provides real-time tracking of patient limits, so patients cannot fill multiple prescriptions at different dispensaries. BioTrackTHC’s linked systems alerts users that the patient has already purchased their daily limit and will not allow the patient to make a purchase in the system.

Franwell (Metrc)

This company says it is the “first all regulatory solution for cannabis,” so growers and dispensaries can comply with applicable laws. Franwell said it has developed and deployed “a turnkey solution which provides end to end tracking and tracing of marijuana plants and products. This solution was specifically designed for government agencies in charge of legalized marijuana enforcement.”

Metrc was launched in December 2013 for the State of Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division “first and foremost as a regulatory compliance system, unlike any application on the market.” This system was “built by regulators specifically for oversight,” according to the company. To date, the system has registered over 20,000 users and tracked well over 5,000,000 plants and 3,800,000 packages, according to the company’s web site.

A July 2014 Brookings Institute report on Colorado’s entry into the legalized cannabis industry said: “In many ways, the system is the backbone of Colorado’s regulatory structure governing legalized marijuana.”

This system boasts a number of regulatory features, including “a vertically integrated ‘closed-loop’ medical marijuana regulatory scheme.” The system also uses RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology combined with serialized individual item tracking. This system creates an “end to end” surveillance system, so a city has real-time visibility at any given time into the “inventory” at all the locations, as opposed to being based on audits for tracking. This state-wide system is being used by Alaska, Colorado, Maryland and Oregon, according to the company’s web site.

MJ Freeway

MJ Freeway guarantees state, federal, and HIPAA compliance, and is integrated with state systems where available. The MJ Platform tracks the product from the grow stage to sale and boasts of 1,000 customers. However, this system was victimized by hackers and suffered from a breach in its security protocols in January 2017 that incapacitated many clients in Nevada. At the time, MJ Freeway CEO Amy Poinsett, called the intrusion an “unprecedented malicious attack.”

According to a report in the Boston Globe, hackers accessed servers of MJ Freeway and corrupted large amounts of data, although no customer records were stolen. The newspaper said the “recovery process has been slow, and at least some customers are abandoning the company.”

The company boasts of “comprehensive” marijuana tracking software, that helps develop client businesses, minimizes product losses and increases efficiency by tracking all costs and yields. This system is internet ready, so clients can access the cannabis software from PCs and tablets. The systems also allows producers and dispensaries to track products and ROI, keep patient and customer records.

Greenbits

Green Bits was founded by engineers with experience crafting global accounting software with complex compliance requirements, according to the company’s web site.

In 2014, the company began working with recreational marijuana retailers to develop a point-of-sale product that matched their product and inventory cycle from seed-to-sale tracking, to customer sales limits and inventory tracking. The company said its Back Office is a web-based portal that can be accessed via a phone, tablet, or computer using a web browser. The company also said it was the first to link with dispensary software location systems Leafly, WSLCB, and Weedmaps.

Flowhub

Working primarily with growers and dispensaries, Flowhub allows customers to upload sales data to Franwell’s METRC API. This system allows users to easily sync their data to METRC. The system boasts of a central distribution hub, (Flowhub’s POS) that allows users to create a company-wide catalog of products, suppliers, and strains so data is updated and standardized at all retail locations. At the POS, the company developed a customizable Discount Engine that automatically posts discount schedules that expire at a specified time date and can be limited by strain or product. The discounts are expressed as a percent or in dollars to give dispensary managers more control. The company’s POS system is cloud based and uses the latest web technologies without buying new hardware, the company’s website said.

Agrisoft

Based in Los Angeles, Agrisoft says its system offers point-of-sale, infused product, cultivation and security modules. It also offers data security using a biometric system logins for staff’ a streamlined, tracking, and verification system for monitoring integrated scales, barcodes, and system audit trails. It also can monitor the cultivation and efficiency of strains and conditions, while also managing inventory “from the back safe to the retail shelf,” while handling transactions with patients and customers using a touchscreen point-of-sale system, according to the company’s web site.


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