An exclusive interview on the medical cannabis economy
Chris Cardona, Minister for the economy, investment and small business of Malta writes about how two of Malta’s fastest growing economies – medical cannabis and emerging tech, are finding common ground as they merge to reach new levels of innovation.
Times are changing and nothing is evidence of that truism more than the fact that medical cannabis and blockchain have become ground-breaking sectors of the Maltese economy. When you strike down Medical Cannabis and blockchain in two different boxes, you may realise that the two subjects sit in two different worlds. However, if you put them in the same box, you will realise that together they may form an important relationship to create a secure flow of data to help in the legality and research of the use of medical cannabis.
Just over a year ago, the Maltese government introduced legislation on the ‘Production of Cannabis for Medical and Research Purposes’ which made us the first EU Member State to provide a regulatory framework for medical cannabis. However, unlike most industries, medical cannabis faces greater legislative and regulatory scrutiny than average. This is where blockchain technology comes in. In examining the current state of the medical cannabis market, it’s clear that implementing this new technology would solve some pressing problems in the industry.
For a long time, cannabis cultivation has traditionally been a fragmented cottage industry with minimal quality standards. Yet we have managed to change this by providing a stable regulatory framework which attracts massive global players. Nevertheless, in this industry it is paramount that the entire supply chain is up to code. In fact, some companies are already using blockchain technology to create secure records that track cannabis from seed to sale. For example, if pharmacy A has sold medical cannabis to person A, the blockchain will create a record online. Since the link will be transparent, it gives an opportunity to the regulator to study and investigate that medical cannabis is being bought for the right use and stocktaking purposes. This creates an element of trust that the origin, quality and safety of the product are in compliance with regulations.
It also gives an opportunity for audit companies to create the right strategy to audit medical cannabis suppliers so the right tax is being held by the government and paid by the suppliers. The transparency created in this process will ensure top-quality products by decreasing black-market involvement. By having medical cannabis tracking systems go all the way from seed-to-sale we are transforming medical cannabis from a cottage style industry to a lucrative and thriving industrial sector. This will contribute to the reputation of the product and industry itself.
Furthermore, the links established by blockchain technology will also help grow the medical research and clinical trials as blockchain uses a hash to determine and keep track of links to give a platform to medical research to monitor and create true statistics about the effect that medical cannabis is having upon the country’s healthcare. From tracking consumption to creating cheaper, more effective regulatory oversight of businesses, blockchain tech has the potential to better serve everyone from investors, to entrepreneurs and government alike.
And that’s not all. Blockchain can be used to create standardised and easily accessible medical records. By implementing a blockchain system to store patient records, the medical cannabis industry would be increasing its regulatory compliance. As a result, this will improve patient outcomes as physicians may use systems with automated compliance reporting and ledgers that securely store patient information. Blockchain can therefore offer medical cannabis companies a value-added service which enhances business efficiency and immutability, meaning that the data and metadata stored are unchangeable.
Malta has the possibility of attracting new start-ups in a number of industries. What is truly needed is a concerted effort by all stakeholders to seek synergies not only within current economic industries but also between them. I am excited to see the possibilities and to see how this new technology can help the medical marijuana industry reach new levels of innovation in business, security and other areas.
As medical cannabis and blockchain are currently reigning among the most popular topics in the global economy, I am truly satisfied that Malta, a tiny island in the Mediterranean, has embraced these industries and is actively looking at how these two forces can work together. As a government, we have always been focused to invest in the future and we are always on the search for new business growth opportunities for the benefit of our citizens, particularly for our younger generation.
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Malta AI & Blockchain Summit is a bi-annual expo covering topics relating to the global sectors for blockchain, AI, Big Data, IoT, and Quantum technologies. The event includes conferences hosted by globally renowned speakers, workshops for industry learning and discussion, an exhibition space accommodating more than 400 brands and a number of networking events.