When people hear the word blockchain, they often think of the rise of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, but TruTrace Technologies (“TruTrace”) is using blockchain to track cannabis from seed to the hands of medical patients in Canada – specifically from a testing and supply chain perspective. They wanted to develop a dynamic supply chain visibility solution that could implement a blockchain solution into their framework, allowing TruTrace not only to protect the data surrounding cannabis, but cannabis consumers and patients at large.
So, who is validating these transactions? With cryptocurrency, a large group of decentralized miners (millions of computers across the world) track the exchange of cryptocurrency every time it passes “hands,” so to speak. When it comes to tracking cannabis genetics among a myriad of other data points, the blockchain miners with TruTrace ensure validity via a “trusted node network,” according to TruTrace CEO Robert Galarza, who states that the various players (governing bodies) along the way include pharmacies, licensed producers and in this instance, Health Canada. It is not an open mining solution that’s tokenizing the support of the chain itself, but rather a network of stakeholders looking to create a better level of trust when it comes to the sale of medical cannabis in Canada. With TruTrace, the industry stakeholders are the ones who govern the body and manage the ledger. Software solutions and SaaS models can then be built off that particular chain in an effort to access information.
The inspiration behind TruTrace came from an inherent issue that they saw in seed to sale tracking systems without proper inventory identification. They knew that genetics was the key to a larger tracking solution and they knew that the future of medical cannabis across the globe would eventually come down to identifying, tracking and verifying the genetics and source of cannabis strains.
TruTrace Launches a Pilot Program in Canada
In July, TruTrace Technologies announced a partnership pilot program with Shoppers Drug Mart (Shoppers) – the Canadian equivalent of CVS or Walgreens. They currently have 1,300 pharmacies across Canada, and as cannabis is federally legal in that country, Shoppers wanted to implement software that could “guarantee product quality and genetics throughout the supply chain from genome-to-patient.” Much like any other pharmaceutical or OTC medicine, patients need to know that the medication they are taking is, in fact, the medication they were prescribed. This is true for pharmacists as well. “Pharmacists have a very specific mandate as far as understanding medicines [is concerned]. TruTrace came in with a mission to critically pool all necessary inventory data, secure that data and allow that data to be easily accessible. Pharmacists really liked this. [Pharmacists] are used to being able to scan a barcode, open their specific [pharmacist software], see a DIN (Drug Information Number) or the NDC (National Drug Code) number (here in the US) and see all of the information associated with the pharmaceutical [or OTC] product [that they are giving to a patient],” states Galarza. That type of information from a medical cannabis perspective is just not available yet and, in most cases, the small amount of information that is available is not easily accessible. As there is a multitude of suppliers of medical cannabis in Canada, all of whom are in competition with one another, it makes sense to have a third-party testing and validating the source and genetic code of the cannabis that is available to patients via prescription. With TruTrace’s software, there is visibility into what medical cannabis is available to patients from an infrastructure perspective.
Consumer Safety + Integrity
TruTrace’s software platform, StrainSecure™, tracks cannabis strains at every testing point. With thousands of strains on the market and with more being created and bred every day, it’s important that a pharmacist can ensure that the cannabis they are giving to a patient is, in fact, the cannabis that has: A) been prescribed to the patient; B) worked for the patient historically; C) came from its noted origin or production facility and D) has been verified using the plant’s genetic variation.
Why can’t we simply continue calling strains by their names in lieu of testing their DNA? There are more than 500 known chemical compounds in a single cannabis plant and upwards of 800 million base pairs of genetic code, which means that while numerous breeders/producers may call a strain Super Lemon Haze, the DNA of the strains may be different – and often is. In short, StrainSecure™ is offering product verification, protection from unintentional misappropriation and intellectual property detection for genetics and strains. This is relevant for growers, processors, medical storefronts, physicians, state/province and federal regulators, and, most importantly, the consumer. As Canada is putting product into the marketplace, TruTrace Technologies wants to ensure that standards and measurements are put in place to protect producers and educate consumers all while ensuring that the transactional middlemen, like testing facilities, throughout the supply chain are also part of the checks and balances process. This ensures transparency for the consumer.
TruTrace + StrainSecure™ Functionality
Cannabis producers may be curious as to the functionality of the SaaS that TruTrace Technologies has available on the market. Once a producer is registered and onboarded the software is straightforward and doesn’t take much in the way of maintaining. The team at TruTrace also offers customized solutions for each producer to ensure that the functionality of the software is designed with each production facility in mind. Not all grows’ daily operations are the same, and TruTrace knows that. From production summary reports to quick and simple testing data input, TruTrace has solutions for a myriad of operational tactics, ensuring that the software makes each step in the production of cannabis seamless while reducing tedious tasks.
Once a strain has undergone a Master Registration process, a purchaser looking to validate the DNA of the strain before a purchase can expect a three-day turnaround from a verified lab. TruTrace has cut the time down for this type of verification from weeks to days. This is one of many reasons that TruTrace’s software is such a valuable resource for both suppliers and pharmacies.
The Science Behind StrainSecure™ Genetic Testing
TruTrace’s Director of Genetics, Dr. Gina L. Conte, PhD is the brains behind StrainSecure™ genetic implementation and testing. Dr. Conte received her PhD and conducted her Postdoctoral Research at the University of British Columbia where she made significant discoveries in the role of genetic evolution, speciation, mate choice, adaptation to climate gradients and the accumulation of mal-adaptive mutations populations. She serves as the CSO at both Cannametrics and Lighthouse Genomics, Inc. As the Director of Genetics, Dr. Conte is responsible for overseeing genetic testing and cannabis variety verification for the platform’s SaaS. She also ensures that the cannabis testing facilities that TruTrace partners with are reputable, efficient, following regulations to the smallest detail all while implementing standardized testing processes and procedures.
In the cannabis space, there are numerous methods of genetic testing being employed. As part of the TruTrace Technologies team, Dr. Conte employs a genetic testing method available through the StrainSecure platform where she looks specifically at SNPs (pronounced “snips”) in the DNA of the plant(s). In humans, SNPs are the most common type of genetic variation. SNPs occur along stretches of DNA, and each snip represents a single DNA building block called a nucleotide. In humans, there are millions of SNPs in our genome. They are often found in the DNA between genes and can act as biological markers. Sometimes SNPs are unique, and sometimes they are very common. SNPs are the reason why the physical appearance of cannabis, susceptibility to disease and response to treatment of said disease often differ from plant to plant. The most important thing to know about SNPs is that they offer valuable insight into cannabis building blocks and help determine one plant from another.
In addition to genetic testing, TruTrace Technologies also looks at potency and terpene standards utilizing cannabis testing facilities that have been verified as a StrainSecure™ Certified Lab Partner. Currently, StrainSecure™ verifies the presence or absence of the cannabinoids: THCA, CBDA, CBD, CBGA, CBG, CBCA, CBC, CBN, THCV and CBDV – that list continues to grow. They are also testing for the most relevant terpenes including limonene, linalool, myrcene, caryophyllene, alpha-bisabolol, borneol, Delta-3 carene, eucalyptol, nerolidol and pinene, among others. The reason for implementing these as base standards within medicinal cannabis is because they have all shown to elicit a biologic response. TruTrace is confident that this requirement will propel the industry to more clearly define the difference between recreational and medical cannabis, differentiate products that can be classified as “safe” by having undergone a specific testing regime, and further the development of products that can be used for targeted medicinal purposes.