by Michael Zammuto

Enterprise CIOs should watch how AI and blockchain build the cannabis industry

Apr 20, 2018
Artificial IntelligenceBlockchainMarkets

The legal cannabis industry is proving to be fast moving and innovative. Its IT leaders have the challenge and the luxury to adopt new technologies, including AI and blockchain, without the limitations of legacy systems. Enterprise CIOs in industries of all kinds can learn a lot from watching how its done.

The cannabis industry may always be under the microscope. It comes with the territory. That’s why it’s so important to ensure transparency.  US states including Alaska, California, and Colorado have all legalized recreational marijuana and more than 60% of Americans support it. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its critics.

Aside from any moral implications of legalized pot, there are also practical problems that accompany efforts to legalize the drug. Critic warn about potential abuses of a legal marijuana industry for good reason. For these reasons Artificial Intelligence (AI) and blockchain transactions can solve a lot of problems.

The cannabis industry is quickly evolving from essentially manually run, mall businesses to automated enterprise. Those in it have a chance to create infrastructure and systems freed from the restrictions of legacy systems. Here is why enterprise CIOs should care. IT executives and strategists from other industries can learn valuable lessons about the green-field application of new technologies in cannabis that can be applied to other industries.

Secure transactions

Few truly understand how Blockchain technology works. Essentially, it’s a new way to conduct secure transactions. This isn’t a way to replace the banking industry. Blockchain services can transmit any type of information securely and transparently that require it. This applies in the case of the legal marijuana industry.

Arista Technologies is producing a blockchain for cannabis. Chief technology officer Don Finley says that one of the biggest concerns of legislators that oppose the legalization of recreational pot use is the potential for abuse in the system. There will always be criminal elements looking to exploit opportunities in any type of drug trade legal or illegal.

AI software can mine large amounts of data and search for any discrepancies that the human eye may miss. Blockchain management systems can securely transmit this data so only the right people have access to it. This combined use of these two new emerging technologies has the potential to reduce the anxiety associated with the legalized pot trade.

Better regulatory oversight

Blockchain works by creating a distributed leger. Multiple individuals have one of the keys that can unlock that information. No one person can access the information alone. This ensures transactions are secure – potentially more secure than any current institutions including the banking system.

In jurisdictions that are creating a legal recreational marijuana industry Blockchain, together with AI technology, can provide a seamless exchange of information between business and government regulators. It will also help to assure the government agencies overseeing the industry that fraud and theft can be kept under control.

Strong product and inventory tracking

In the US alone, the cannabis industry is already a $10 billion-dollar market annually. In states where it’s legal, it represents a significant amount of tax revenue. As companies in this segment begin to integrate AI and Blockchain technology the increased transparency should lead other jurisdictions to seriously consider the merits of a legal cannabis industry.

Finley says that blockchain will not only allow greater regulatory oversight, it will allow businesses to create better product and inventory tracking systems. All consumer product producers have to deal with theft and it can be a potentially major issue in any legal cannabis industry.  Using AI to monitor secure Blockchain information management systems will significantly reduce the risks.

Ensuring customer privacy

Blockchain transactions are good for the average consumer as well. They ensure that their information remains private and can only be accessed by company employees and government regulators with access. This is important for an industry that will always have some stigma associated with it for some members of the public.

There are countless examples of data breaches that have led to embarrassing and damaging consequences for consumers. Hackers have exposed the vulnerabilities of companies such as Target, Equifax, Ashley Madison, and Yahoo in recent years. All of these have had potentially life changing implications for the average consumer. The use of AI and Blockchain technologies can prevent this from happening in the cannabis industry.

A secure cannabis industry is possible

The concerns about emerging cannabis industries around the US are understandable. There will always be the potential for abuse in an industry that revolves around the recreational use of drugs. The use of AI technology and Blockchain transaction management systems can greatly reduce the risks associated with the industry. These technologies can allow for greater oversight, secure product tracking, and ensure customer privacy as well. That’s good for everyone involved.