The world is dependent on technology, which means tech plays a critical role in every industry. That includes the marijuana industry, but policy changes are still the norm in this industry. What happens when policy and technology intersect in the marijuana industry today?

As with all things in business and in life, there are good things and bad things that happen when laws and technology collide. In the marijuana industry, the collision has been mostly positive with technological innovations debuting to help marijuana businesses comply with state regulations around marijuana growing, distribution, processing, and sales. Let’s take a look at some interesting examples.

Home Growing

When some states passed marijuana policies that allow medical marijuana patients and recreational marijuana customers to grow marijuana at home, technological innovation happened quickly. For example, Seedo is an auto-grow hydroponics device for home-growers. It looks like a small refrigerator and is controlled by an app. Users simply plant the seed, close the door, and don’t open it again until it’s time for harvesting.

Seedo isn’t the only company offering this type of technology (LEAF is just one of its competitors), but one thing is certain. This technology would not exist at this level if marijuana laws didn’t allow home-growing.

Artificial Intelligence

Cannabis companies are also leveraging technology to improve sales and ecommerce through artificial intelligence and machine learning. Cultivators use technology from companies like Bloom Automation for robotic plant trimming and Grownetics to improve efficiency and yields.

Artificial intelligence can also be found in security through companies like Hardcar Security, which offers robotic security technology. In addition, marijuana dispensaries use technology like that offered by Flowhub for automated tagging, which helps them comply with state regulations.

Extraction Technology

For medical marijuana patients, the quality and consistency of the marijuana product is critical, but until recent innovations were introduced, extraction technology wasn’t necessarily capable of delivering pharmaceutical-grade products. CannRX Technology, Inc. developed patented technology to solve that problem. The company debuted its new method of extraction earlier this year touting it as safer than both BHO and CO2 extraction methods.

Another recently patented technology from CannRX is Vapor Capture Technology (VCT), which creates the safest and highest-quality extracts currently available on the market. In addition, the company uses its CannTrrap technology to turn the extract into powder that can be used to make a wide variety of products.

Cleanroom Technology

Manufacturing regulations can be very strict in the marijuana industry, so it makes sense that cleanroom technology is gaining traction. For example, MariJ Pharmaceuticals offers mobile cleanroom technology to manufacturers that don’t want to invest in their own, permanent cleanrooms.

Manufacturers that have the capacity and budget can work with a company like Portafab, which provides modular cleanroom technologies. These rooms can be customized to meet the user’s needs. They can also be used throughout the production process – from cultivation to extraction.

A Real World Example

To see how technology and policy can intersect in the marijuana industry, consider this story that made headlines in 2017. At the time, lawmakers in Ohio were actively developing the state’s medical marijuana program. The proposed regulations would limit the amount of marijuana patients could buy and possess to six ounces of plant material or marijuana products that contain the equivalent amount of THC per 90-days.

The story made headlines because the proposed regulations deviated from what all other states that had legalized medical marijuana required in their regulations at that time. Specifically, Ohio’s proposed laws would limit the amount of marijuana patients could purchase based on THC levels.

Considering this is how most pharmaceutical drugs are prescribed to treat medical conditions (i.e., patients need to get a predetermined dosage of the drug’s active ingredient), Ohio lawmakers weren’t making a big leap to develop the state’s marijuana program in this manner.

Where things got confusing were what and how much patients could actually purchase and possess. According to the proposed regulations, patients would be able to purchase a variety of products as long as they stayed below the 90-day supply limits. The maximum amount they could possess of each type of marijuana product made things even more confusing for patients:

  • Plant material with THC levels below 23%: 6 ounces
  • Plant material with THC levels above 23% and up to a 35% maximum: 4 ounces
  • Vaping oils: 5 grams of THC (220 mg per day)
  • Transdermal patches:8 grams of THC (450 mg per day)
  • Edibles, oils, and tinctures taken orally: 9 grams (100 mg per day)

Ohio’s pharmacy board officials reported that the THC limits being proposed were determined by reviewing other state’s policies, available clinical research, and data about adverse effects.

Enter Technology

The proposed regulations posed a problem. Ohio lawmakers believed there is reason to limit the amount of THC medical marijuana patients use each day, so they proposed regulations that would limit purchasing and possession limits. However, these laws didn’t limit the amount of marijuana that patients could actually use on a daily basis. That’s where technology came into the story.

Israel-based pharmaceutical company Panaxia Ltd. had a device that took the guess work out of how much is too much THC. The company partnered with the largest medical marijuana business in New Mexico, Ultra Health, to manufacture products that would provide better dosage delivery systems.

In a joint press release, the companies explained, “Panaxia will be providing smokeless proprietary cannabinoid dosage and treatment protocols not readily available in the U.S. in order to manufactures state-of-the-art products to treat a number of illnesses.” The new smokeless marijuana products would be highly beneficial to patients who need ongoing dosing (e.g., patients with chronic pain, cancer, PTSD, epilepsy, and more).

Ultra Health CEO and president, Duke Rodriguez, explained, “The new smokeless-designed cannabis products are providing better delivery systems for patients and physicians by delivery of a fully potent, targeted dosage specifically tailored to the patient’s needs.” In other words, if more states develop purchasing and possession limits based on THC levels and dosages, the market for technological and operational innovations, like the one developed by Panaxia, will grow significantly.

The Future of Policy and Technology in the Marijuana Industry

This story is just one more example of the opportunities picks and shovels businesses will have in the growing marijuana market. It’s no longer a matter of if new technology will debut in the marijuana industry but when that new technology will arrive. Sometimes policy will influence technology, and other times, technology will influence policy.

Originally published 3/9/17. Updated 6/8/18.

Susan Gunelius, Lead Analyst for Cannabiz Media and author of Marijuana Licensing Reference Guide: 2017 Edition, is also President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company offering, copywriting, content marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, and strategic branding services. She spent the first half of her 25-year career directing marketing programs for AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more as well as small businesses around the world. Susan has written 11 marketing-related books, including the highly popular Content Marketing for Dummies, 30-Minute Social Media Marketing, Kick-ass Copywriting in 10 Easy Steps, The Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing, and she is a popular marketing and branding keynote speaker. She is also a Certified Career Coach and Founder and Editor in Chief of Women on Business, an award-winning blog for business women. Susan holds a B.S. in marketing and an M.B.A in management and strategy.