This Company Wants to Track Your Weed by Spraying It with DNA
An international biotech company is using a combination of artificial DNA and blockchain technology to track legal weed from seed to sale and beyond.
Published on June 26, 2019

TheraCann International Benchmark Corporation, a self-described “one-stop, full service solution for the international cannabis marketplace,” has announced a new partnership with biotech and blockchain companies that will allow cannabis products to be securely tracked from seed to sale and beyond.

Last year, TheraCann partnered with Applied DNA Sciences to launch a cannabis tagging system (CTS) that uses artificial DNA to help regulators and law enforcement officials determine whether individual cannabis products were produced legally or on the black market. To utilize this new tech, cultivators must spray their freshly-harvested cannabis plants with an inert chemical mixture that includes a unique DNA tag. 

These DNA tags are designed to resist UV, heat, cold, vibration, or other environmental conditions. The tags can also survive processing, and can be detected even in heavily-processed products like cannabis oils, edibles, and shatter. These persistent tags allow dispensaries, law enforcement officials, or state regulators to analyze any tagged product and determine exactly where the weed was grown, and by whom.

This year, TheraCann and Applied DNA have launched a new partnership with TruTrace Technologies, a Canadian company that uses blockchain technology to register and track intellectual property for the cannabis industry. The new partnership combines TheraCann's existing blockchain technology with TruTrace's StrainSecure technologies “to provide forensic levels of traceability of cannabis and cannabis derivatives at any point in the supply chain to guarantee product quality,” according to the companies' press release.

The information contained in any cannabis product tagged with this new technology can be compared to the information on the blockchain to ensure that the product is legal. Blockchains cannot be changed, therefore a black market dealer can't create a counterfeit DNA tag that makes their product appear to be legal.

Colorado lawmakers recently debated replacing the state's current software-based seed-to-sale tracking system with biotracking technology similar to TheraCann’s new system. Last year, former state Senator Kent Lambert proposed a bill that would require all cannabis plants grown in the Centennial State to be sprayed with a chemical tracking agent developed by UK-owned company PhytoTrack. 

Colorado lawmakers eventually voted down the PhytoTrack proposal over concerns that this private company was attempting to get Colorado taxpayers to foot the bill for research into its privately-owned tech.

Many cannabis cultivators have also raised concerns over the safety of spraying an unknown chemical on to every single one of their plants. “The thought of it alone — whether it’s safe or not — just the thought of an additive when we are trying to reduce additives is a turnoff to me,”  said Larisa Bolivar, executive director of Colorado-based Cannabis Consumers Coalition to Cannabis Now. “It is unnecessary. I personally will not consume cannabis that has additives on it.”

Researchers have argued that the DNA-based tags are safe to consume, as humans regularly consume DNA from every single cell of any animal and plant material that they ingest. 

Chris Moore
Chris Moore is a New York-based writer who has written for Mass Appeal while also mixing records and producing electronic music.
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