The Blockchain Could Save Legalized Weed. (Stop Rolling Your Eyes.)
As marijuana becomes legal across the U.S., small growers will need to innovate to survive
Where there’s profit to be made, there’s corporate greed. And the weed industry, which is inching toward legalization throughout the United States, is no exception.
The market for legal weed is projected to hit $31.4 billion by 2021, according to a recent report from the Brightfield Group, a research firm focused on cannabis. Naturally, alcohol, tobacco, and pharmaceutical companies are investing heavily in the industry.
Constellation Brands, best known as the parent company of Corona and holder of the third-highest market share of any beer supplier in the world, has invested nearly $4 billion in Canopy Growth Corp., an Ontario-based cannabis company. Some worry that Monsanto will eventually develop genetically modified marijuana — a prospect that seems reasonable even as the company has issued denial after denial.
The blockchain won’t solve all the problems the cannabis industry will face, but it’s certainly a start.
These companies could look to patents as one tool to carve out their space in the industry. Different weed strains have different effects on people, so you could think of them as separate brands just waiting to be developed and monetized. The concern is that corporations might edge in on territory that’s been staked out by someone else. Since the cannabis industry has been criminalized by the government in the past, patents on existing plants and products are not nearly as well-defined as those in other industries. The Constellations or Monsantos of the world could look to claim cannabis strains that have existed for years because they lack patent protection.
In such a turbulent marketplace, one emerging technology — either a fad or the harbinger of a “new internet,” depending on who you ask — could help smaller growers defend themselves against conglomerates. The blockchain won’t solve all the problems the cannabis industry will face, but it’s certainly a start.