Tech

The Unique Cyber Risks Facing the Cannabis Industry

All companies face cybersecurity threats, but the legalized cannabis industry’s storage of personally identifiable information and reliance on seed-to-sale tracking software can place it firmly within hackers’ crosshairs.

To be sure, despite currently being prohibited from storing cash in banks, some cannabis entities do process valuable personally identifiable information (PII).

Ontario is giving cannabis retailers an online sales entry point with click-and-collect plan

Ontario will allow private cannabis retailers to sell their products online or by phone for in-store pickup, in a significant move that chips away at the Ontario Cannabis Store’s monopoly on online cannabis sales. 

The province’s fall economic statement is proposing amendments to the current legislation around cannabis retail in order to “ensure consumers’ preferred cannabis products are available” and “wait times reduced” at the 25 retail stores that currently operate across the province. 

How Cannabis Technology Can Improve Industry Standards

New cannabis technologies have the potential to transform the industry as advanced cultivation techniques and testing practices improve.

New cannabis technologies, including quality control and contamination testing along with other health and safety practices, are key to building and maintaining consumer trust in the legal cannabis industry. 

Weed breathalyzer may reassure Policymakers

When New Jersey lawmakers debated earlier this year whether to legalize recreational use of marijuana, the Garden State’s police organizations were adamantly against it.

The cops said that legal weed might lead to an explosion in the numbers of impaired drivers operating under the influence. And the police would be caught flatfooted trying to tell whether drivers they pulled over were high or not.

“With alcohol, if you have over 0.08% in your blood, there’s the presumption that you’re intoxicated,” said Christopher Leusner, head of the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police.

“There hasn’t been a blood test or a breath test that can determine if you’re impaired by marijuana.”

Now there is.

It’s a breathalyzer device developed by Hound Labs in Northern California. It’s portable and can run tests for both alcohol and marijuana. It just may change the minds of many of those reluctant police officers, including in Pennsylvania as lawmakers consider several proposals to legalize recreational marijuana use.

Intrinsic Capital Partners, a Philadelphia growth equity fund, is so convinced of a “potential massive market” for the device that it led a $30 million Series D financing round to bring it to market in 2020.

Mike Lynn, a veteran emergency department physician from Oakland, Calif., developed the Hound in collaboration with researchers from the University of California at Berkeley and San Francisco.

Lynn also happens to be a reserve deputy sheriff.

“It’s about creating a balance of public safety and fairness,” Lynn said. “I’ve seen the tragedies resulting from impaired driving up close. And I have a good idea how challenging it is at the roadside to know whether someone smoked pot recently. But I believe if someone is not stoned, they shouldn’t be arrested.”

Blood tests for marijuana can return a positive result even if someone has used cannabis within the last three weeks.

Lynn claims that his device can detect whether someone has smoked or ingested a marijuana edible within the last three hours.

A Canadian start-up, called SannTek, has a device in development with similar capabilities.

The Hound is comprised of a base station and a hand-held device that together will retail for about $5,000 a unit. The entire machine will be manufactured in the United States, Lynn said. Each test also will require a $20 onetime use cartridge.

“We have spoken with law enforcement agencies and large employers, and from our perspective, there’s a huge, untapped market and unmet needs for something like this,” said Howard Goodwin, principal at Intrinsic Capital Partners.

Dick Wolf, the creator of TV’s Law & Order, is also an enthusiastic Hound backer. So is Benchmark, the Silicon Valley venture capital powerhouse that put up seed funding to Dropbox, Snap, Uber, and WeWork.

“It’s a game changer,” said John Hudak, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who has written extensively on marijuana legalization.

“I’ve been saying for years it’s only a matter of time before someone developed the technology and got the science right,” Hudak said. “That time apparently is now. And they’re going to make a hell of a lot of money selling it to law enforcement agencies across the U.S. and Canada.”

Goodwin said about 50 million drug tests are conducted each year. He believes the market for a THC breathalyzer may be worth well above $10 billion annually.

About 30 states have legalized cannabis. Pennsylvania and New Jersey are among the dozens with medical marijuana programs. The governors of both states support legalizing it for recreational use. And polls in both states show the majority voters would support full legalization.

But traditionally, law enforcement has been resistant to legalization.

Leusner, the head of the New Jersey police chiefs group, said prosecuting marijuana DUIs is costly and time-consuming.

Marijuana DUI cases hinge on blood test results. Traces of THC metabolites, the drug’s byproducts, can remain in the body for up to a month. Proving impairment is notoriously difficult. There is no “per se” standard, or legal threshold, of what constitutes intoxication. Often, cases get thrown out of court.

Officers who are qualified drug recognition experts and trained to spot stoned drivers can spend up to two days in court on the stand. “That’s expensive,” Leusner said.

John Adams, Berks County’s district attorney, serves on Pennsylvania’s statewide medical marijuana advisory board.

“DUI under marijuana is a huge, huge problem. It’s one of the reasons we’ve been against legalization,” Adams said. “I’ve heard about the breathalyzers. If the technology is out there, it would be a great tool. It would alleviate some of our fears.”

Police have depended on the skunky stench of burnt marijuana to provide probable cause to search a car or conduct a field sobriety test on a driver. But a recent court ruling in Pennsylvania maintained that the smell alone isn’t sufficient reason to initiate an arrest.

In addition, cannabis consumers in many states are slowly trending toward edibles — from pot brownies to infused beverages and lozenges — and, until the recent scare, vaping.

So both the Hound and the SannTek breath analyzers appear to be arriving at the perfect moment.

The Hound breathalyzer, which is about a billion times more sensitive than a standard alcohol breath test, can detect the incredibly low concentrations of THC that are transported through the bloodstream and subsequently exhaled.

“We wanted to be able to detect THC in people who have recently used it — either eaten the stuff or smoked a joint,” said Lynn. “Those are the people we want to discourage before they go to the workplace or get behind the wheel.”

Lynn said he envisioned the device nearly eight years ago when a car drove past him trailing a cloud of weed smoke. But the technology did not exist to create an affordable device.

“I didn’t realize how hard it was going to be.”

In about eight months, Lynn’s team was able to detect THC in the breath of smokers. It took five more years to consistently and accurately measure levels with a machine with a cost in reach of most police departments and employers.

“We could measure small amounts quickly, but it took considerably longer to do the science and complete the clinical studies,” Lynn said.

Though Lynn envisions the nation’s police departments as his first customers, he believes that businesses will adopt the Hound.

“Employers have the same fundamental problems as law enforcement,” Lynn said. “They need to maintain a safe workplace, but not have to worry about what their employees do in their free time. Someone can go home, smoke pot just like I’d enjoy a glass of wine, and not test positive.”

“Employers are facing a workforce now that has close to full employment,” Lynn said. “They don’t want to be firing valuable workers, especially for something that’s legal in most states.”

Vaping trailblazer reportedly sold dangerous synthetic marijuana

Some of the people rushing to emergency rooms thought the CBD vape they inhaled would help like a gentle medicine. Others puffed it for fun.

What the vapors delivered instead was a jolt of synthetic marijuana, and with it an intense high of hallucinations and even seizures.

More than 50 people around Salt Lake City had been poisoned by the time the outbreak ended early last year, most by a vape called Yolo! — the acronym for “you only live once.”

In recent months, hundreds of vape users have developed mysterious lung illnesses, and more than 30 have died. Yolo was different. Users knew immediately something was wrong.

Who was responsible for Yolo? Public health officials and criminal investigators couldn’t figure that out. Just as it seemed to appear from nowhere, Yolo faded away with little trace.

As part of an investigation into the illegal spiking of CBD vapes that are not supposed to have any psychoactive effect at all, The Associated Press sought to understand the story behind Yolo.

The trail led to a Southern California beach town and an entrepreneur whose vaping habit prompted a career change that took her from Hollywood parties to federal court in Manhattan.

When Janell Thompson moved from Utah to the San Diego area in 2010, the roommate she found online also vaped. Thompson had a background in financial services and the two decided to turn their shared interest into a business, founding an e-cigarette company called Hookahzz.

There were early successes. Thompson and her partner handed out Hookahzz products at an Emmy Awards pre-party, and their CBD vapes were included in Oscar nominee gift bags in 2014. In a video shot at a trade show, an industry insider described the two women as “the divas of CBD.”

Indeed, Hookahzz was among the first companies to sell vapes that delivered CBD, as the cannabis extract cannabidiol is known. Now a popular ingredient in products from skin creams to gummy bears, cannabidiol was at that time little known and illegal in some states.

The partners started other brands that offered CBD capsules and edibles, as well as products for pets. Part of Thompson’s pitch was that CBD helped treat her dog’s tumors.

By autumn 2017, Thompson and her partner formed another company, Mathco Health Corporation. Within a few months, Yolo spiked with synthetic marijuana — commonly known as K2 or spice — began appearing on store shelves around Salt Lake City.

Yolo and Synthetic Cannabis

Synthetic marijuana is manmade and can be manufactured for a fraction of the price of CBD, which is typically extracted from industrial hemp that must be farmed.

Samples tested at Utah labs showed Yolo contained a synthetic marijuana blamed for at least 11 deaths in Europe — and no CBD at all.

Authorities believed that some people sought out Yolo because they wanted to get high, while others unwittingly ingested a dangerous drug. What authorities didn’t understand was its source.

Investigators with Utah’s State Bureau of Investigation visited vape stores that sold Yolo, but nobody would talk. The packaging provided no contact information.

By May 2018, the case was cold. But it was not dead.

That summer, a former Mathco bookkeeper who was preparing to file a workplace retaliation complaint began collecting evidence of what she viewed as bad business practices.

During her research, Tatianna Gustafson saw online pictures showing that Yolo was the main culprit in the Utah poisonings, according to the complaint she filed against Mathco with California’s Department of Industrial Relations.

Gustafson wrote that while at Mathco she was concerned about how Yolo was produced, that it was excluded from Mathco’s promotional material and that the “labels had no ingredients or contact listing.”

Justin Davis, another former Mathco employee, told AP that “the profit margins were larger” for Yolo than other products.

Gustafson’s complaint asserted that Mathco or JK Wholesale, another of the companies that Thompson and her partner incorporated, mixed and distributed Yolo. Financial records in the complaint show Thompson’s initials as the main salesperson for Yolo transactions, including with a company in Utah. The records also show Yolo was sold in at least six other states, including to an address in South Carolina where a college student said he vaped a cartridge that sent him into a coma.

The former bookkeeper also tipped the Utah Poison Control Center about who she believed was behind Yolo, according to her complaint.

Barbara Crouch, the poison center’s executive director, recalled getting a tip in late 2018 and passing it along to the State Bureau of Investigation. SBI agent Christopher Elsholz talked to the tipster, who told him she believed the company she had worked for distributed Yolo. Elsholz said the company was in California and therefore out of his jurisdiction, so he passed the tip to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

The DEA offered to help but took no law enforcement action, spokeswoman Mary Brandenberger said. Spiked CBD is a low priority for an agency dealing with bigger problems such as the opioid epidemic, which has killed tens of thousands of people.

In the end, it wasn’t the synthetic marijuana compound in Yolo from Utah that caught up with Thompson. It was another kind of synthetic added to different brands.

By the time of the Utah poisonings, vapes labeled as Black Magic and Black Diamond had sickened more than 40 people in North Carolina, including high school students and military service members. Investigators were able to connect Thompson to that outbreak in part based on a guilty plea from the distributor of the spiked vapes, who said a woman that authorities identified as Thompson supplied the liquid that went into them.

Prosecutors also linked her to dealers charged in New York, where she pleaded guilty last month to conspiracy to distribute synthetic marijuana and a money laundering charge. The only brand federal prosecutors cited was Yolo.

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman called Thompson a “drug trafficker” who used JK Wholesale to distribute “massive quantities” of synthetic marijuana as far back as 2014. She faces up to 40 years in prison.

Reached by phone the week before she pleaded guilty, Thompson declined to discuss Yolo and then hung up. In a subsequent text message, Thompson said not to call her and referred questions to her lawyer, who did not respond to requests for comment.

While Yolo was Thompson’s project and she was the exclusive salesperson, her business partner and former roommate was involved in its production, according to the workplace retaliation complaint.

Thompson’s business partner and former roommate, Katarina Maloney, distanced herself from Thompson and Yolo during an August interview at Mathco’s headquarters in Carlsbad, California. Maloney has not been charged in the federal investigation.

“To tell you the truth, that was my business partner,” Maloney said of Yolo. She said Thompson was no longer her partner and she didn’t want to discuss it.

In a follow-up email, Maloney asserted the Yolo in Utah “was not purchased from us,” without elaborating.

“Mathco Health Corporation or any of its subsidiary companies do not engage in the manufacture or sale of illegal products,” she wrote. “When products leave our facility, they are 100% compliant with all laws.”

Maloney also said all products are lab tested. She did not respond to requests for Yolo lab results.

Innovative technology development for cannabis safety

Following the relaxation of cannabis laws safety in the workplace and on the roads is of major concern.

Currently, the medical cannabis segment accounts for the majority of the overall industry, largely because of the growing adoption of alternative treatments. Medical researchers have highlighted that cannabis can be effectively used to treat ailments such as cancer, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and chronic pain. However, as the industry continues to advance, cannabis safety on the roads and in the workplace is becoming a major concern.

The recreational segment is expected to eclipse the medical segment and overall, the number of consumers in legal US states and Canada is rapidly growing as the recreational market continues to mature. Notably, many recreational consumers are purchasing a variety of cannabis-based products such as flower, concentrates, extracts, and edibles.

Most recreational consumers are interested in products that are packed with THC, delivering a potent effect. In particular, concentrates and extracts have become increasingly popular because of their immediate delivery and potent THC content. However, producers have faced backlash from political officials and law enforcement agencies over the plant’s potential abuse.

Cannabis safety concerns

Regulators are concerned about the possibility of driving while under the influence. Companies and even parents have expressed their concerns over the potential abuse of cannabis. In efforts to co-operate with regulators, businesses, and parents, many companies have developed innovative technology.

Some companies are developing technologies for law enforcement agencies in efforts to reduce potential criminal activities that spawn as a result of cannabis use.

Innovative technologies such as THC breathalysers have become popular for law enforcement in legal regions. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana can significantly impair judgement, motor co-ordination, and reaction time.

The advancement of THC breathalysers is expected to reduce the number of consumers who drive under the influence, and as a result, regulators are hoping to reduce the number of dangerous incidents.

Avis Bulbulyan, Chief Executive Officer of Siva Enterprises, said: “When looking at how tech would impact the cannabis industry, it’s important to understand the needs of the industry.

“Generally, this industry is no different than many other industries and it has all of the same business needs that most businesses have. The Schedule One nature of cannabis along with the general misunderstanding of cannabis as a plant for so long has led to a greater need for compliance and transparency when setting up these businesses.”

8 must-have cannabis products for tech-minded weed consumers

Let's face it, in one way or another, technological advancements have altered nearly every facet of our lives — and smoking weed is certainly no exception. In fact, as ongoing legalization efforts have birthed a rigorous and dynamic market, tech-savvy companies are developing innovative products that provide people with new ways to get stoned or seek therapeutic relief. 

There are, of course, those who prefer the traditional consumption methods — hand-rolled joints, bongs, one-hitters, among many other tools of classic stoner culture. But some are venturing outside of the norm, seeking out more exciting, more potent, and more convenient approaches to using cannabis. 

Here are eight tech-minded weed products that have caught the cannabis community's collective eye.

OTTO

OTTO by Banana Brothers makes the perfect preroll a snap, finely grinding coarse herb and packing it into king-size cones.

Image credit: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

Automatic joint rollers and grinders aren't exactly groundbreaking devices, but the OTTO automatic cone filling machine from Banana Brothers manages to merge both product types into a must-have device for king-size joint lovers. While filling a pre-rolled joint isn't exactly rocket science, the manual process of loading it with bud can lead to sticky fingers and a poorly packed joint. The Banana Brothers' OTTO aims to address these inconveniences by creating a machine that finely grinds up your herb and evenly deposits it into the cone.   

The company claims that its grinder utilizes smart technology to grind weed, depositing finely ground flower directly into a pre-rolled king-size cone. This automatic grinder is reportedly capable of detecting density, moisture level, texture, and flower consistency, which it uses to adjust the pressure, speed, and direction for an optimal grind. 

Price: $130

PAX 3

PAX 3 is a versatile vaporizer ideal for concentrate and flower consumers alike. The accompanying app gives precise temperature control and management of vapor and flavor output.

Image credit: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

Among the most popular devices on the cannabis vaporizer market, the PAX 3 is a hybrid portable vape that is compatible with both flower and concentrate. Now on the third iteration of PAX, the latest device comes with a concentrate adapter that can be inserted into the dual-use chamber, and a half-pack oven lid to reduce the flower chamber in half.

The PAX 3 itself has plenty to boast about, but what really sets this tech-minded product apart from other modern vaporizers is the PAX Mobile App, which connects to the PAX 3 via Bluetooth and provides the user with full control over the device temperature, manage vapor and flavor output, lock the device, play games, and also automatically update the firmware. With precise temperature control, consumers are able to pinpoint and save their favorite vape temperature settings. Whether that be for optimal terpene flavors or maximum vapor clouds, it's totally up to the consumer. 

Price: $199.99 for device only/$249.99 for complete kit

Puffco Peak

The Puffco Peak is equal parts style and substance. The $379.99 electronic vaporizer mapes dabbing simple. Puffco Peaks have also inspired talented heady glass artists to create eye-catching custom piece.

Image credit: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

A trailblazer among electronic dab rigs, the Puffco Peak is a portable electronic vaporizer that is designed to make the concentrate consumption process less messy and time-consuming, eliminating the manual parts of the dabbing process, such as heating up your nail and waiting for it to cool. Dubbed as a “smart rig,” the Puffco Peak features a single button that is used to control the power and temperature settings, making the dabbing process as straightforward and approachable as possible.

Dabbers can either pre-load concentrate into the chamber before heating it up or perform a more traditional experience by dabbing the concentrate once it reaches the set temperature. Outside of being an incredibly convenient and sleek e-rig, Puffco also offers customers the ability to personalize their Peak with colored glass attachments, carb caps, or ball caps. 

Price: $379.99

Focus V Carta

The Focus V Carta is a lower-price competitor to Puffco's Peak. It has one-button control, changeable batteries, and heats quickly.

Image credit: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

Vying for the same e-rig market as the Puffco Peak, the Focus V Carta is another advanced e-rig that is reshaping the way that concentrates are consumed. It's compact, portable, sleek, and allows consumers to enjoy temperature-controlled and water filtered concentrate vapors. The Carta comes with a travel pouch that is stocked with swappable titanium and quartz buckets, a dab tool, carb cap, and alcohol wipes for cleaning.

Like the Puffco Peak, the Focus V Carta utilizes a single button to operate the device and jump between different heat settings. However, there are also a couple of notable differences between the two e-rigs. The Focus V is slightly more compact than the Peak, it heats up quicker, and also allows users to swap out batteries when the device loses its charge, making it slightly more appealing to those who want to travel without having to worry about constantly recharging it.   

Price: $250

DaVinci IQ

The DaVinci IQ prompts information to users with an array of 51 lights, and offers an app to control the vaporization experience. With additional attachments, the DaVinci IQ can be transformed into a bubble or nectar collector.

Image credit: Courtesy of DaVinci

The DaVinci IQ is another herbal vaporizer that has become more popular among tech-minded cannabis consumers. The IQ doesn't look nor act like a typical vaporizer device, which is evident by its 51-light grid that both displays information on your vape session and has a sophisticated, tech-forward aesthetic appeal. Featuring a zirconia ceramic airpath, and what the manufacturer has dubbed as “Smart Path Technology,” DaVinci IQ users are able to quickly cycle between four temperature settings. 

Like the PAX 3, this device is compatible with a mobile app that provides full control over each vape session and also enables you to track your overall usage. Offering 1 1/2 hours of usage time, the users can keep a spare set of 18650 batteries to ensure that their session doesn't end when the batteries run out of juice. Last but not least, the DaVinci IQ can also be transformed into a bubble or nectar collector with additional attachments

Price: $275

Genius Pipe — TOP Secret Stealth

The Genius Pipe is a waterless device with micro-vortices to cool and filter smoke. Its cover also reduces weed odors and keeps flower from falling out of the bowl.

Image credit: Courtesy of Genius Pipe

Designed for the tech-minded person with a preference for stealthy and discreet consumption, the Genius Pipe is a sleek device made to consume flower. Within the Genius Pipe's minimalistic anodized aluminum body is a patented dimple design, which creates tons of micro-vortices to filter and cool the smoke without any water. 

There are other features that set the Genius Pipe apart from your average spoon or one-hitter. This piece comes equipped with a magnetic sliding cover that reduces odors and keeps your herb from falling out of the bowl. The compact, discreet nature of the Genius Pipe makes it the perfect travel companion. Lastly, you can choose from a slew of colors and personalized graphics that Genius has made available, including Rastafari Lion and Mona Lisa.  

Price: $75 - $120

Hydrology9 Vaporizer

Cloudious9's Hydrology9 has a lava lamp-like appearance for its “tunnel tube” liquid filtration system for vaporizing flower.

Image credit: Courtesy of Cloudious9

The Hydrology9 by Cloudious9 is another unique vaporizer that looks and functions similar to the Puffco Peak and Carta V, but is instead geared toward vaporizing flower instead of concentrates. Packed within this cylindrical borosilicate glass-made device is a liquid filtration system, which uses Cloudious9's patent-pending “tunnel tube” design to filter vapors without obstructing their flow. 

The flower chamber is made of food-grade porcelain and includes a microchip processor that focuses on temperature control and quickly makes adjustments if needed. The Hydrology9 also comes with a built-in hook-shaped device to stir around the flower and ensure that the heat


is evenly distributed throughout the chamber and every piece of flower is properly vaporized.

Price: $199

Nova Decarboxylator

The Nova Decarboxylator might be your new favorite kitchen companion.

Image credit: Courtesy of Ardent

Every chef has his or her favorite cooking tool, and for those who prefer to apply their culinary skills to cannabis-infused recipes, the Nova Decarboxylator might be your new favorite kitchen companion. With the push of a single button, this compact decarboxylator is able to activate your flower, kief, or concentrates without producing a heavy odor. 

The device holds up to one ounce of cannabis flower, depending on the density and consistency of the bud, and between 5 to 6 ounces (142-170 grams) of kief. The decarb process takes around an hour or fifteen minutes, and the Nova is equipped with two sensors that monitor the temperature to ensure that your cannabis is not burned or unactivated. Not only can the Nova Decarboxylator be used to concoct tasty edibles, decarbed herb can also be used to prepare topicalsto fill into capsules, or even to be eaten in flower form. 

Price: $210

One year of medical cannabis in the UK

The 1st of November 2019 will mark the one year anniversary of the legalisation of medical cannabis in the United Kingdom. A year after Charlotte Caldwell's tireless campaign to obtain life-saving medication for her son Billy catapulted medical cannabis onto the public agenda, the cost of prescriptions has dropped substantially while the number of scripts written has increased, but more needs to be done before it can be more widely offered by the National Health Service (NHS).

The average price of a month's supply of medical cannabis imported through Logist has dropped from £750 to £550, reducing the average monthly prescription cost by 27%, while the average price per gram has also fallen by 25%. The reduction in cost is a combination of increased volume (meaning the costs associated with importing products is lower per prescription) and the increased availability of different products.

The type of medical specialist consultants writing prescriptions for medical cannabis has also diversified to include pain, oncology and neurology. There has also been a broadening in the delivery method for medical cannabis requested by specialist consultants to include different cannabis oils, pills and flowers, which is largely a result of the greater range of products available. Since February, Logist has imported approximately 1.5kg of flower to the UK.

The vast majority of medical cannabis has made its way to the UK thanks to Logist, a joint-venture formed between specials importer IPS Pharma, and Grow Biotech, the UK's leading medical cannabis market access specialists.

Timeline of Events

  • 1st November 2018 - New regulations introduced, which allowed for the import and prescription of cannabis-based medicines
  • 14 February 2019 - The first bulk import of medical cannabis in the UK and first patients to receive medication from Logist
  • May 2019 - EU based bio-pharmaceutical company MGC Pharma appoints Logist
  • August 2019 - NICE publish interim report on medical cannabis
  • August 2019 - American medical cannabis giant Columbia Care announces that it will fund and provide medicine for clinical trials in the UK
  • September 2019- Leading Canadian company Aurora appoints IPS Pharma and Grow Biotech as importer and distributor for the UK market
  • September 2019 - Medical cannabis consultant informs Logist that a patient is no longer using opioids to manage their condition following treatment with medical cannabis

Looking forward to the near future, Chief Operating Officer of Grow Biotech, Hari Guliani, said, "Over the next twelve months we expect the UK's medical community as a whole to take on the challenge of understanding how cannabis might help their patients. We are expecting leading consultants to publish papers on the impact they have seen on their patients, as well as evidence gathered through MHRA-approved trials. This will significantly improve the data available to regulators, policymakers and NICE."

At present, it is only available on the NHS in extremely limited circumstances and is only obtainable through a prescription written by a specialist consultant in the private sector. NICE (The National Institute of Health Care Excellence) has advised that more clinical trials need to be undertaken in the UK and overall costs of medication need to be reduced before medical cannabis can be prescribed by NHS consultants. However, new medical trials are now underway and prices associated with the import of medical cannabis are falling dramatically, giving hope to the thousands of patients who are still struggling to access life-changing medication.

Another major change which cannot be overlooked is funding for the UK's young medical cannabis industry. Ben Langley, Chief Executive Officer of Grow Biotech explained that, "We have seen a massive increase in funding for UK businesses operating within the medical cannabis space, especially from North America. In addition to the £5m Grow Biotech has raised over the last two years, there have been notably well received fundraises for Emmac Life Sciences PLC (£11m raised in March 2019) and for Oxford Cannabinoid Therapeutics ($10m in April 2019). This trend is likely to accelerate as European medical cannabis gradually establishes itself as an attractive asset class for global capital and European equity exchanges start to open their doors to cannabis companies."

Both Ben Langley and Hari Guliani are available for comment and interview.

About Grow Biotech

Grow Biotech exists to unlock the medical potential of cannabis for those who need it.

Grow Biotech's market access team launches medical cannabis producers' businesses into new markets, creating long-term value for them. The company's R&D team creates new technologies for medical cannabis producers to create better, more cost-effective, medicines.

About IPS Pharma

IPS Pharma is a pharmaceutical importer, distributor and manufacturer with over 18 years' experience in unlicensed and licensed medicines.

4 keys to making your indoor grow operation more sustainable

For growing cannabis, indoor operations have become the norm. They’re discreet and owners can precisely control the climate – and their product. When strains have different THC contents and a quality product is the top priority, these indoor operations provide business owners the control they need to develop the exact product their customers want.

However, these facilities also come with extra costs. Space is limited, climate control equipment requires maintenance, and indoor lighting uses a lot of power. Different strategies and technologies can be employed to create a more efficient and sustainable grow operation. The upfront costs may be higher, but if you are willing to let technology take the wheel, the long-term benefits can outweigh the costs.

commercial grow room

Vertical growing by Ideal Harvest

Vertical Growing

An easy way to make your grow operation more efficient is to expand up, rather than out. Vertical growing is a popular trend in the cannabis industry that allows for a more environmentally and financially sustainable operation.

“I believe the future of this industry will soon be transitioning to incorporate vertical growing to help maximize square footage while decreasing your carbon footprint,” said Mike Caine, master grower for Ideal Harvest and a past Cannabis Cup Winner. He should know too, as Ideal Harvest is one of the leading vertical grow consultants and providers in the industry.

The benefits, as highlighted by Ideal Harvest CEO Sheryl Mizicko, are many. From an energy standpoint, vertical growing allows you to use one light for two canopies, rather than just one. It also allows for less energy-intensive bulbs, replacing 1000W bulbs with 615-630W options. It also reduces water usage by using drip irrigation and water reclamation strategies.

Additionally, there is a convenience of access; vertical canopies can be serviced and maintained without having to reach into or over the canopy. This helps mitigate pests (mites, mold, bacteria) by reducing human-introduced elements. Prevention on the front end means less need for pesticides later on.

Apart from environmental benefits, vertical canopies can help the operation and business as a whole run more efficiently. With vertical, one person can service the same area in one-half day that it takes two people to do in an entire day. Additionally, fewer pesticides and organic indoor growing help create a better end product, meaning a more satisfied customer.

Automation

“Cannabis, as any other plant, needs a certain temperature, humidity level, and radiation level in order to grow in the most productive way.” This is according to Pieter Kwakernaak, General Manager of Hoogendoorn America, a leader in cannabis and horticulture automation.

Climate control is a major key to indoor cannabis growth. Like any plant, cannabis has specific needs that will determine the highest-quality harvest. “Where are they growing best in outside conditions?” Kwakernaak posed. “India or Jamaica, where it’s very high temperatures. That means in a growing environment, in a greenhouse or in an enclosed room, we mimic the same temperatures where the plant really thrives.”

The best way to achieve this balanced climate control is via automation; a system that monitors and adjusts based on the plant’s needs. In Hoogendoorn’s case, “We do a combination of temperature, humidity, and controlling the light levels,” Kwakernaak explained. “So, on the one hand, that means on a very bright, sunny summer day, we black out the greenhouse in order to mimic shorter days, so that the cannabis can start flowering. On the other hand, we’re also keeping in account that we control the humidity levels because you want to prevent mold in the flowers.”

It’s a delicate process, but one that will likely make or break your grow operation. “I would say the climate, the exact growing climate, is key to success or failure,” Kwakernaak claimed. “If you don’t have the right climate, with too high humidity levels, with too big temperature and humidity swings, then it’s a recipe for disaster, because then the plants are susceptible to diseases. They don’t grow well … It is all about balance … Your relative humidity has to be in balance with CO2, temperature, and radiation. Those four factors all play together in having the ideal climate for the plant.”

Energy

Growing cannabis is energy-intensive. According to MarketWatch, cannabis indoor grow operations account for one percent of electricity consumption in the U.S., approximately 40.3 million kWh per year. To power the lights and climate control systems, these facilities need a lot of power. “They use a lot of energy in a small footprint,” explained John Ryan, head of the financing division at Baker Energy Team. It was cannabis’ energy needs that made it perfect for Baker.

“We focus on the high energy users,” Ryan explained. “We have the ability to go in there and save them at least 10 percent on their current rate … It’s been in the neighborhood of 15 to 20 percent.” Baker works with their partners to develop alternate energy solutions, whether that be solar or wind power, cogeneration, or the development of micro-grids. “What we do is go in and customize the system to the customer’s needs,” Ryan continued. “We’re not out there with a truck full of solar panels … unless you need them. Ultimately, we’ll look at the project … As a rule of thumb, one megawatt of power needs five acres of land. Sometimes you just don’t have that amount of land to do a solar farm, so what we could do is, we’ll come in and do cogeneration and then utilize the rooftops for as much solar as we can.”

In a time when huge companies like Budweiser and a number of automobile makers are shifting their focus toward sustainability, namely cleaner energy, cannabis has the unique opportunity, as a young industry, to brand itself as sustainable. Utilizing alternative energy solutions won’t just benefit the bottom line, but could make cannabis companies champions of sustainability.

Cooling Systems

It’s already been established that a successful grow operations needs rigorous climate control equipment. But how can that equipment be more sustainable? Industrial chillers play a major role in temperature regulation for indoor operations. “The need for temperature control can cross your day in so many ways,” explained Philip Preston, president of PolyScience, manufacturer of liquid temperature control solutions. “It’s an extremely broad range of applications.”

However, these chillers can have an adverse effect on the environment, using valuable energy resources and releasing greenhouse gases in the process. For this reason, PolyScience developed their latest DuraChill line of chilling technology. The new series uses a natural and nontoxic refrigerant-grade propane which can regulate the temperature of your operation, without emitting ozone-depleting greenhouse gases.

The equipment chosen to run a grow operation will ultimately determine the sustainability of said facility – and the owner’s bottom line.