Legalization of Marijuana in Canada: Technology Companies Rushing to Cash in.

December 21, 2018

Earlier this year the Canadian Senate voted to pass Bill C-45, known as the Cannabis Act, and will effectively make recreational marijuana legal for adults. Marijuana will not be sold in the same locations as alcohol or tobacco and will be available from drug retailers regulated by provinces and territories or from federally licensed producers.

The newly created cannabis industry in Canada is certain to attract technological companies of all kinds, ranging from software companies to genetic engineering firms.

Technology companies are racing to cash in on various new business opportunities that surround the cannabis industry. In fact, Bloomberg has predicted that Canada may see as much as $3.5 billion in sales from marijuana flower sales alone in 2019. Not surprisingly, this magnitude of market potential has effectively driven many individuals and companies ranging from technological giants such as Shopify, to local startups, seeking to earn a profit in the Cannabis industry.

Aside from local dispensaries and other in-person stores, the main way for Canadians to purchase recreational marijuana will be through online shopping run by either provincially or privately-run online stores. This electronic medium has opened doors for technological companies to either start their own privately run online stores or, as in the case of Shopify and other companies, help manage government-run operations.

Further, companies such as Shopify involved in cannabis retail are also working to implement seed-to-sale platforms with other tech companies such as Trellis Solutions Inc. and Ample Organics Inc. to connect virtually all aspects of the cannabis industry. These platforms will provide information for areas such as growing and production; client management; sales, packaging, and fulfillment; and quality assurance and reporting.

Retail and distribution, however, are not the only areas that are being pursued by cannabis entrepreneurs. Companies such as Grow Ratio are using technology to inform producers how to optimize and increase their growth rates. Software and applications such as Grow Ratio’s allow a producer to control different variables for production such as powering on/off lighting and other external systems such as HVAC  and nutrient delivery to the plants.  This control coupled with the ability to monitor environmental data such as temperature, humidity, CO2 or other parameters effectively allows producers of Cannabis to maximize profits and minimize production costs.

On the other hand, companies such as Strainprint are targeting social and more personal aspects of the marijuana industry by providing services such as education of different strains and methods of consumption and even marijuana dating apps. Applications such as Strainprint’s aim to help consumers select strains and methods of consumption to experience effects tailored specifically to their medicinal needs.  Users can input variables such as the type and severity of pain they are experiencing and will even be able to share their results with doctors to further develop a personal medicinal cannabis plan/strategy.

   Finally, and most importantly, many biotech and drug companies such as Hyasynth Biologicals have begun to invest in genetic engineering of cannabis plants in hopes of creating new recreational products and medicines to treat chronic pain and many other health problems. According to Hans Parmar, a spokesperson for Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, the federal department working on the cannabis file, has stated that cannabis plants themselves cannot be patented. However, Parmar insists that “genetically modified cannabis plant cells” and “novel isolated genes that produce cannabis active ingredients” will be eligible for patent protection. If held to be true these biotech companies may receive enormous profits from royalties earned through these patents, especially if the market potential estimated by Bloomberg ($3.5 billion) turns out to be accurate. The newly created cannabis industry in Canada is certain to attract technological companies of all kinds, ranging from software companies to genetic engineering firms. It is important to note that technology in the cannabis industry is still relatively in its beginning stages as Canada is only the second country to legalize marijuana for recreational use. This decision by the Canadian legislature therefore has created an almost entirely new industry and is one that will continue to expand as different technologies are developed and further explored.