Cannabis legalization: How not to mask public safety

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As Canadians prepare for Cannabis to hit stores by the end of the summer, how can we ensure that smokers and non-smokers are safe and public safety is not compromised? How do we ensure that people do not drive under the influence of the plant and that it does not get used by minors? How do we stop Cannabis from compromising public safety?

1.0 — Is Cannabis good for you?

Cannabis has some benefits. One area I have looked into that Cannabis can be used for is to treat or manage glaucoma, an eye condition that is mostly caused by excessive intraocular fluid. Some components of Cannabis help reduce the fluid in the eyes thus reducing the potential for irreversible damage to the eyes by glaucoma. While there are clear benefits of using Cannabis to manage glaucoma, researchers suggest that for Cannabis to be efficient in managing glaucoma, a patient will always be high since the dose needed to manage glaucoma is very high.

The video above, by Prince Ea, a very talented spoken word artist, goes into more details about some benefits of Cannabis and how it became criminalized. Although I do not stand for or against the plant, I will be proposing a blockchain ecosystem to enhance the regulation of Cannabis in Canada. This is important because we are on the verge of having it legalized and we want to be prepared by tapping into one of the latest and greatest technologies, Blockchain.

2.0 — Will Cannabis affect Public Safety?

The decriminalization of Cannabis in Canada provides opportunities for application of blockchain technology. Regulation is an important area in the Cannabis regulatory framework. And good regulation will enhance public safety, reduce DUIs and stop minors from taking the “good stuff”. Although we want to regulate this plant to enhance public safety, we should not over-regulate it, create a stigma around it or make it difficult to legally acquire. Doing this will not be good for Canada as it will incite consumers to seek the plant by other illegal means.

3.0 — How will a Society with legal Cannabis be structured?

Under the new Canada, after Cannabis legalization, provincial governments will decide the supply chain of the plant, decide who can sell it and how it will be sold. They will also also set the price of the plant. Many provinces have already concluded public opinion surveys and proposed regulations around how the plant will be sold. On the other hand, licensing and regulation of weed producers and the criminal code and enforcement around this will be controlled by the Federal Government.

4.0 — Can Cannabis regulation run on a Blockchain?

A blockchain for Canada’s Cannabis regulation, Canada’s Weed Chain, is needed to enhance public safety. The questions, though, is that if a blockchain regulation ecosystem for Cannabis is built in Canada, how will it look like?

An ecosystem of this scale and value must come with all the good things that blockchain offers like built-in auditability, security, trust as well as important features like speed, efficiency, scalability and minimum viable centralization (MVC). Hyperledger Fabric Blockchain is an ideal candidate to power such ecosystem because it was built for large scale application in entreprises.I propose that Canada’s Weed Chain by made of the following: Members, the Operations, and the Resources.

4.1 — Who are the Chain Members?

  1. Consumers: This is anyone above the legal age who wants to buy and consume Cannabis. They will be anonymous and their personal information will not be tracked in the Blockchain network.
  2. Producers: These are the producers of the plant. They will be regulated by the Federal government.
  3. Sellers: These are authorized retailers of the plant. They will need to be licensed and monitored by the Provincial governments.
  4. Regulators: Representatives from Provincial and Federal Government that approve the licenses of sellers and producers and can also revoke issued licenses.

4.2 — What are the Chain Operations?

  1. Buy: A buy operation is initiated by a consumer. Once initiated, a seller must verify and validate that they are of legal age before they sell the plant to them
  2. Approve License: An operation initiated by an appointed provincial or federal regulator to issue a license to a seller or producer.
  3. Obtain: An obtain operation initiated by a Seller to a Producer to get a bulk supply of the plant. A producer in the blockchain network accepts the requests and fills the order
  4. Revoke License: When a compliance breach by a seller or producer occurs, regulators should be able to revoke their license on the blockchain. When this happens, they will be unable to obtain or sell the plant and because this network is what all parties use, we can be sure that the unscrupulous seller/producer will not be able to sell legally to the public.
  5. Sell: An operation issued by a seller to transfer Cannabis to a consumer. This also reduces their stock of the plant. The number of these operations they have performed as reflected by the amount of Cannabis that they have in stock determines if they are able to issue the obtain operation or not.

4.3 — What are the Chain Resources?

  1. The Plant: The plant is the main asset in this ecosystem. We should be able to track how much of the plant is produced, where each gram is being shipped to and how it is being consumed. This is very important to ensure public safety because we do not want some of the plant to fall on the hands of illegal resellers.
  2. Reputation: Just like the ranking system in some online websites and apps like Uber, reputation in Canada’s Weed Chain will be used to incentivise both sellers and producers and give consumers an overview of how compliant a seller (Individual stores) is so that a consumer can decide where they want to take their Business to.

5.0 — What are the Challenges?

Although Blockchain provides a lot of benefits for the regulation of Cannabis, it does come with a couple of challenges.

5.1 — How does monopoly affect regulation?

One of the challenges of using Blockchain Canada’s Weed Regulation, as proposed above, is that each province decides how the plant will be retailed and this results in a situation where some provinces use a central body like the LCBO in Ontario and others use a mix of public and private stores as is the case in Saskatchewan and British Columbia. Because of this discrepancy, the reputation resource proposed above might not apply to provinces like Ontario because of the monopoly in the supply chain. If the regulation about using a central body to control the sale of the plant cannot be updated, we should be able to hold each store accountable and treat them as an individual sellers on the blockchain even if they are part of a monopoly.

5.2 — Does Technology and Infrastructure play any role?

Sellers and producers already have sales and supply chain infrastructure in place and these are connected to their existing Point of Sale terminals and accounting and inventory suites. Bringing in an additional layer for the management and sale of cannabis will pose not just a technical challenge but a business one also. Companies like 7Shifts Restaurant Scheduling Software have done a great job with integrating POS solutions from multiple manufacturers and might be able to provide insights to companies hoping to integrate a new blockchain solution to their existing sales infrastructure. The tech and infrastructure challenge is also a great opportunity for a company like Shopify that is making commerce better for everyone.

6.0 — Is there a summary? TL;DR

In summary, although public safety can be compromised by Cannabis, the likelihood of this happening can be drastically reduced by adopting a high tech regulation ecosystem powered by blockchain technology. This ecosystem will also provide transparency and auditability and give consumers the ability to decide which Cannabis seller they want to patronize. As we move closer to the full legalization of Cannabis in Canada, I am optimistic and confident that public safety will be enhanced as people start obtaining the plant from legal and trusted sources.

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