Shoppers Drug Mart to use blockchain to track its cannabis products

The Canadian pharmacy chain announced a tech partnership at the World Cannabis Conference

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Canadian pharmacy chain Shoppers Drug Mart has teamed up with a blockchain technology company to implement a tracking system for its cannabis supply chain.

The Loblaws subsidiary announced a partnership with TruTrace Technologies, a cannabis focused tech solutions company formally called BlockStrain, at the World Cannabis Conference in Saint John, New Brunswick this week.

Using TruTrace’s software, customers will have access to a publicly available ledger tracking cannabis products sold by Shoppers. The system stores various forms of seed-to-sale data, from the product’s origins and to genetic testing results.

Blockchain is a user-generated immutable ledger that creates blocks of data in a chainlink formation—hence the name: “blockchain”. Once validated and entered, information is stored on a digital platform and can’t be altered—only built upon. Everyone privy to the information has a copy of data, can verify the authenticity of the records, and has to communally agree on changes—effectively eliminating the need for third-party trust organizations.

Ken Weisbrod, vice president of Shoppers, spoke to the partnership at the conference. “This is the future for medical cannabis in the world,” he told the crowd. “I know the U.S. is looking at what we’re doing here, and it’s really important that we take this leadership stance.”

Currently, the only tracking mechanism in place for Health Canada focuses on the national supply only. On the tenth of each month, legal retailers of cannabis must submit sales and inventory data to their respective provincial authorities via the federal government’s Cannabis Tracking System (CTS). The database doesn't publish testing information, nor does it monitor product quality.

In an interview with the Georgia Straight earlier this year, Robert Galarza, TruTrace CEO, said the system is designed to arm consumers with more information.

“Before…in a dispensary you could see the product, open the jar, smell it, touch it, there was a lot of information you could get from just handling and looking at the cannabis,” Galarza told a Straight reporter.

Now, beyond a dime-sized company logo on the product bottle, a chemovar name, and limited information about certain cannabinoid levels, there is very little differentiation to be made between products at retail checkpoints.

“We get it, they [the federal government] want to make sure everything is sealed, no external toxins or compounds are getting in there, it has to be safe. But we have to provide consumers with more information than what’s on there now.”

Currently, Shoppers sells cannabis for medicinal purposes to customers in Alberta and Ontario online. It has plans to open distribution to other regions throughout Canada later this year.

The pilot program is expected to launch at the end of July.

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