This is the third in a series of articles designed to introduce an integrated pest management framework for cannabis cultivation facilities. To see Part One, click here. For Part Two, click here. Part Four comes out next week and covers direct control options for pest reduction. More to come!
This is Part 3: Preventive Measures
Preventive measures are a great investment in the profitability of your operations. Our objective is to ensure successful repeat harvests forever. Build your procedures with this in mind. This means maintenance and regular review. We all realize that this work can be monotonous drudgery (we know!), but these procedures will ensure your success.
As a summary to begin, pest access must be limited wherever possible. Employees are the first place to start, but we must also return to our site map and review our facility design and workflows. Every operation has to move plants from nursery through harvest and post-harvest. Where should cleaning happen? Of course, you have to clean up post-harvest but when should this occur during the grow cycle? What is the best way to monitor and clean environmental management systems (i.e. air, water) and what are the weaknesses in the physical barriers between operations? Let’s walk through these issues one-by-one.
Employee Access and Sterile Equipment
Follow procedures to screen and protect your employees both to eliminate pests and to avoid exposing your employees to harmful chemicals or storage areas. Look for ways to isolate your workflow from pest access. Be certain that your facility is airtight and sealed with filtration of molds, spores and live organisms in your air intake areas. Air showers at your access points are important to screen your employees on their way into your gowning areas and grow facility. Clothing should be standardized and shoe coverings or crocs should be provided for all employees that access your interior. Look for ways to stop all pests (embedded, crawling, hopping or flying) in all of your room assignments (mothers, clone, veg, flower, trim and drying). This can be improved with shoe baths, sticky mats, frequent hygiene (hand washing and cleaning stations) and procedures for entry.
Always consider requiring hair & beard nets, shoe covers and disposable gloves in plant sensitive areas.
Chemical Access & Protective Equipment
Personal protection equipment (PPE) is very important to protect any employee that will come in contact with materials, liquids or vapors for chemical resources. Establish procedures for chemical use and train employees in the safe handling of these materials. Typical equipment includes high density chemical protective gloves, boots, respirators, Tyvek (or equivalent protective wear) suits and eye protection or goggles.
Chemical access areas and their use should be restricted to employees familiar with their authorized application. Always remember that cannabis is an accumulator plant, and it will absorb and hold onto chemical treatments. Appropriate isolation and safety procedures must be followed for chemical use. Not following these restrictions can expose your employees to dangerous chemicals or get your entire harvests rejected at testing.
Facility Map & Workflow
Because insects would like to be everywhere and they come in many types (root zone, crawling, flying, microscopic, bacterial or biofilm), the facility workflow must understand where they are and how they might migrate if they penetrate your defenses. Note airflows in your rooms and fan locations so migrations can be predicted once an infestation is located. Where are your opportunities for full clean-up and disaster recovery in your building? Where should you stage maintenance filters, test kits, water and cleaning materials. How best to clean up and dispose of sealed garbage containers or cleaning materials?
Operational Cleaning & Post-Harvest Reset
When compiling your preventative measure documents, it is critical to create a repeatable operating procedure for cleaning and sanitizing your rooms, systems, and growing spaces after each harvest. Plant material handling, cleaning surfaces and wipe methods should all be documented in your Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). Define what “clean” is. Removing plants and plant debris is pretty clear but define how to drain reservoirs, clean pipes, change filters and clean and sterilize your rooms. Operators must be trained in these SOPs and reminded of their content on a regular schedule. This is how you avoid outbreaks that can crush your profits.
Physical Barriers & Maintenance
Document your sealed spaces and define your normal room and access door barrier interfaces. Review the status of any known cracks or gaps in your perimeter. Are there any known leaks or piping that has been seen as a risk or a problem in the past? Are there any discoloring or resident mold locations (Never happens, right?). Baseline how much time and people resource a harvest operation and cleaning effort should take. Will you do this after every harvest or compromise your risk by delaying to every third or fourth harvest? Create your barrier SOP.
Environmental Control & HVAC
Managing the air quality provided to your plants is critical to your yields. Controlling CO2, air movement rates (the leaf happy dance), humidity, air filtration and sterilization methods must be maintained and cleaned on a regular basis. Do you need to change the HEPA or other particulate filters? Is there any UV light sterilization maintenance? We have all seen the home HVAC air conduit cleaning commercials. Your commercial facility is no different. How will you clean your air and water plumbing systems? How often will you perform this full reset? When will you calibrate and data log your sensors for temperature, humidity, CO2 and water resources? Put everything about your environmental set points into your maintenance document and decide when to validate these. Molds, mildews and biofilm hazards are all waiting for unmonitored systems to open the door for access.
In Conclusion, This Week
If you’re an IPM nerd and this dynamic topic did not put you to sleep, you can read more detail and examples for your integrated pest management procedures in ourcomplete white paper for Integrated Pest Management Recommendations, download the document here.
In our next chapter, Direct Control Options, we will review what you can use to protect or recover control of your facility including both chemical and non-chemical tools and methods. In our final two chapters, we will discuss extermination of the determined pests that breach your defenses. And with great expectations, our final chapter will discuss emergency response and time to go to war!
Part Four comes out next week. See you again soon!
The Tohiyusdv Cavalry is a black-owned small business based in rural Virginia. At its core, they grow and process cannabis for CBD products, but it’s really much more than that. Through its Precision Craft Farmer Program, the company works with existing small minority-owned farms to introduce them to the cannabis market.
Via land leasing, profit-sharing, crop-sharing, facility design, community involvement and incubator-style support, Tohiyusdv Cavalry has built a network of farmers and a community around them that work together to gain access to the larger cannabis market.
Tohiyusdv, pronounced “toe-hee-yoos-da,” means “calm” and comes from a Native American dialect in the region. James Arrington III, founder of the company, is both African American and Native American, so the name is a nod to his roots. While Arrington insists he is just one part of this larger organization, it’s his passion for community, small business, social equity and cannabis that drives the company.
We sat down with James to learn more about the Tohiyusdv Cavalry, a bit of his background, how him and his community have found success and what they hope to achieve.
Different Sides of the Tracks
He grew up in Norfolk, Virginia alongside his two brothers and sister with a view of two different lifestyles. “We grew up in the hood of Huntersville, but I was raised in a white church, so it was interesting seeing both sides of the tracks and seeing the side that some of my friends couldn’t see,” says Arrington. The dichotomy of his upbringing gave him a unique perspective that he took to heart, eventually going to Old Dominion University for electrical engineering at the encouragement of a teacher.
Throughout his formative years, he didn’t really get involved with cannabis – that came much later. In his college years though, he met his Delta Chi fraternity brother Ernest Toney, who would go on to become the founder of BIPOCann, a nonprofit that helps social equity entrepreneurs, minority business owners and professionals in the cannabis industry.
Working as an electrician to pay for tuition, Arrington graduated and launched what would become a successful career in electrical engineering. He worked as a subcontractor for the government in warzones, designing electrical systems with security and defense in mind, before starting his own company CalArr Consulting. “What really tied me to the industry was when I started using cannabis for my mental health and to understand who I am,” says Arrington. A combination of his upbringing and his career led to his PTSD, which then led him to cannabis as a tool for his wellbeing and mental health.
More recently, he spoke with Ernest Toney, who said, “Look man, I’ve seen what you’ve done with your business over the years and you should consider getting into the cannabis industry.” Arrington took that advice and ran with it. “So, the company I started is a mission-driven company based around healing, cannabis, understanding and helping people,” says Arrington. “Tohiyusdv Cavalry is based around working with small farmers and minorities; We introduce them to the cannabis industry.”
Here Comes the Cavalry
Right now, his company works with hemp and CBD products, but he says they are looking to expand into the THC market once Virginia legalizes and they already have some partners they’re working with in other states to expand the program.
Tohiyusdv Cavalry has been around for about two years now and Arrington says the heartbeat of it is their craft farmer program. “These are existing minority farmers in a community, already growing crops like soybean or corn,” says Arrington. “These are generational farms that have been passed down through family, some of them almost 100 years. They’ve always had to change with the times.” In changing with the times, a lot of these small, rural farms are seeing the hemp market as a possible pivot, but hardly know where to begin. “They are starting to hear about farmers in their community growing hemp, but having trouble finding folks to buy their crop.”
That’s where the Cavalry comes in. “What you see in minority backgrounds is a lot of opportunities like this that are very scary to step into,” says Arrington. “We’re teaching people how to get into the industry, helping them through processing and getting on the market using new technology, and we do it at their pace.” Some folks in their network just want to rent space on their farm out to a hemp grower, others want to dive right in and create CBD products. They operate a white label program for some and help set up turnkey facilities complete with extraction and processing for others. “We work with them to build a community around their farm,” says Arrington. “We are just the engine behind these small farmers helping them get access to the larger market.”
From the Ground Up
A good example of the work they put in is Everbreeze Acres. Based in Rustburg, Virginia, Everbreeze is a 434-acre farm and bakery that’s been in the same family for generations. They had an interest in the cannabis market, so they approached Tohiyusdv Cavalry. James and his crew came in and built a 2,000-square-foot facility that is hydroponic, fully turnkey and automated. “We are teaching them the process and turning it over to them,” says Arrington. “We are teaching them how to take care of the plants, grow the crop, harvest and process it, all while collecting data.”
Before brainstorming how they want to market their products and how they want to be represented, the owners of the farm were still a little skeptical. Being in their 70s, they wanted to make a product that has some medicinal properties and could help people take care of themselves. So, James and his team put together a plan to launch a daily supplement, akin to a multivitamin.
Now Everbreeze Acres is using CBD as a megaphone to communicate their story. They were wary at first, but learned about it, grew to like it and now run a fruitful cannabis business. “We have their facility up and running and we’re growing several strains that work best for them right now,” says Arrington. “We’re about a month away from another harvest there.”
Everbreeze Acres embodies the concept of the Tohiyusdv Cavalry. Helping small farmers establish themselves in the cannabis industry, building community around them and working to help their following and their mission.
Small business is the keystone of many communities, the cannabis industry included. Economic empowerment is sort of a way of staving off big business too. Given the history of big tobacco in the Virginia area, many stakeholders are worried if they’ll still have a seat at the table when Virginia legalizes adult use cannabis. “Looking at it in that sense, we are hoping that creating this group of diverse minds and backgrounds is building a table where everyone can sit at,” says Arrington. “We want to provide that place for them and let them know that, yes, this is the room for you, this is the place for you. We’re lending a helping hand and giving them a voice and a megaphone, sharing what they want to see in this industry.”
When asked what advice James would give himself ten years ago, the mood was somber. “Ten years ago, my mentor, alumni Dave “BamBam” Hoffman died. I would say that was the thing that gave me that kick in the ass, that I wasn’t doing everything I could do.” He has the same advice for minorities and indigenous people getting into the industry now: “Don’t be afraid to do it, the skills that you have you can put into the industry in some way. Your fit is out there. If it’s the right way, it’s never going to be easy. Push through it, keep going,” he says.
Growing in Virginia
Tohiyusdv Cavalry is ready for the day that Virginia legalizes adult use cannabis, but James says he hopes they make room for the small farmers. “Small farmers are what makes Virginia, Virginia.” They are in talks with some larger medical cannabis companies about creating similar programs for sourcing from craft growers. Through their strategic partners, a big part of their work right now is around partner and sponsor outreach, getting more businesses interested in sponsoring facilities and investing with small farmers. “Our hope is that we’ll be able to keep expanding the program and involve more minority farmers in Virginia and that it will only keep growing,” he says. “We’re optimistic that we’ll have three more farms signing on this year. And hopefully when Virginia legalizes adult use cannabis soon, we’ll be ready to expand in that market and keep on growing.”
This is the second part of a series of articles designed to introduce an integrated pest management framework for cannabis cultivation facilities. To see Part One, click here. Part Three comes out next week and covers prioritization and preventative measures. Stay tuned for more!
This is Part 2: Pest Monitoring, Record Keeping, & Communications
Begin your pest identification process with a pest scouting document. You have already mapped out your facility with locations and potential access locations. For each of these pest types and room type assignments (mothers, clone, veg, flower), identify your employee scouts, their scouting methods, scouting frequency and the type of likely pest they are to search for and count.
Insect Types and Tracking Methods
Insect pest types include, but are not limited to, airborne flying or crawling insects, their various egg, lymph, larvae, pupal shells or immature forms. Look for trace remnants, plant damage or feces that let you know they are present in some form. If they are at the mature jumping or flying stage, this can be harder to count, but sticky traps distributed on an even basis around your rooms can make the counting process more consistent from survey to survey.
Note airflows in your rooms and fan locations so migrations can be predicted once an infestation is located.
Insects Can Be Everywhere – Crawlers & Fliers
Insects would like to be everywhere so they come in many types from the obvious flying and crawling types to root-zone microscopic, aquatic, fungal, bacterial or biofilm based. For those of you using soil or media, root-zone insects can be beneficial by digesting and breaking down organic matter into something useful for your plant’s roots (earthworms) or harmful by feeding directly on your plant roots and sucking the life out of your plants from out-of-sight below (nematodes, maggots).
Common pests in a cannabis environment include:
White flies – Oval shaped eggs on the underside of leaves, nymphs- oval crawlers that suck on the undersides of leaves, larger stage nymphs with pupae shells as they form wings and mature white flies.
Fungus gnats – Clear eggs deposited in overly wet soil or dead plant matter. Clear or white colored larvae in the soil or media, these worm-like critters go through multiple stages of molting as they grow, eventually pupating into brown cocoons and finally small black or dark flies with clear wings that flutter around your plants and suck on your leaves.
The dreaded spider mite – Clear, hard to see eggs on the underside of your leaves. These six-legged tiny moving bubbles begin the feeding as larva, add 2 legs in the intermediate and mature nymph stages and finally the oval shaped spider mites that every grower despises, adding their webs around the tops of your plants as their nurseries suck the life out of your flowers.
Insect Transfers of Bacterial Infections
Many crawlers or fliers you may discover in your grow operation do not generate fungus or bacteria on their own. However, they do routinely pick these up along the feeding way and bring them into your shop. Sap-feeding insects like leafhoppers and aphids use their needle mouths to pierce your leaves to suck on the sap that is nourishing your greenery. These insects consume the fluids and transfer bacteria as they feed. Whiteflies fit into this category of leaf sucking bacteria carrying pests. These pests can make your healthy grow rooms look blotchy with color drained out of your canopy.
Obvious symptoms of these flying/hopping pests are sticky leaves, black fungus mold, or yellowing leaves that show up at the bottom of your plants and work their way upward as the infestation progresses. Leaf curling or plant wilting will be visible in the more advanced stages of these pests.
As if crawlers were not bad enough, invisible fungus and bacteria that get into your water supplies can be the worst challenges of any grow.
Water Sourced Bacteria
Baseline testing of your feed water is critical for any facility. This is true whether you are using surface water, well water or municipal water. Please see the water tutorials on the AEssenseGrows website for details on how to test your water sources and what to look for in the mineral content.
Regardless of your water source, bacteria can be present directly in your water supply, or it can be introduced from infected plant materials from one of your suppliers. Pythium, fusarium and the latest plague, hop latent viroid, are some of the most common threats that attack your plants from your water or soil sources. These can come from your wells, feed lines or plant materials.
Reverse osmosis (RO) is a typical method to clear water of most pathogens and bacteria using water that is pressed through filters with very small membrane apertures. These small openings usually stop impurities, salts and microorganisms. Of course, these systems come in many different types and they have to be maintained to keep their performance quality. Don’t take shortcuts on your RO system.
Once your water source is clean, strict hygiene procedures for tools, equipment and plumbing are the best way to minimize these threats to your plants downstream from your water source. These cleaning efforts are not a guarantee. Pests can still get into even the best facilities. Symptoms of these maladies vary, but root rot, stunted growth, wilting, discolored roots or leaves, and in some cases, the quick death of your plants is possible depending on the critter.
Use your scouting regimen and your data mapping to locate infestations before they expand and damage your facility. Isolate outbreaks and take appropriate measures to address the pests. We will give you suggestions on prioritization and preventative measures to take in the next chapter.
Pythium is one of the most commonly harbored soil or water carried pests. When it is present and gets into your plants through cuts, natural openings, root surfaces or leaves on weakened plants, it can be devastating. In hydroponic systems, dirty looking brown roots evolve into full root rot if not addressed. Pythium is often the cause. In soil operations, pythium often shows up as wilting or yellowing patches on leaves.
Your lab testing partners are your friends when it comes to bacterial or fungal infections. Many diseases can resemble one another. It is not hard to misdiagnose environmental stress such as overheating or overwatering for a bacterial problem. Test results are necessary to accurately diagnose a problem.
Truly Airborne Molds & Mildews
Pythium and fusarium are not just present in water. They can also be airborne. Grey mold (botrytis) and powdery mildew are also common airborne pests. Proper humidity, air movement, air filtration and sterilization using HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filters, activated carbon filters (also filter smells) and UV light sterilization can minimize these problems in your grow. Powdery mildew is the primary evil spore in this category. Airflow and regular cleaning to discourage fungal growth is the best way to limit these pests.
In conclusion, this week
Now that we have talked about identification (and clearly, this is not an exhaustive list), we will move into how to build in the cultural methods to prevent these problems from taking hold and ruining your business. In later chapters, we will dive into prioritization, treatment and control options for infestations, finally moving into control actions and emergency response.
Your integrated management response is how you pull all of this together and use your IPM procedures to increase your profitability. For the complete white paper on Integrated Pest Management Recommendations, download the document here.
Part three comes out next week and will delve into the world of Preventative Measures. Stay tuned for more!
Inexpensive in vitro Methods to Evaluate the Impact of Cannabinoid-containing Products on Sentinel Lactobacillus spp.
S. Lewin 1, A. Hilyard2, H. Piscatelli1, A. Hangman1, D. Petrik1, P. Miles2, and C. Orser2
1MatMaCorp Inc, Lincoln NE; 2Apothercare LLC, Boston MA
The public has readily embraced cannabidiol (CBD) in countless unregulated products that benefit from commercial promotion without FDA oversight, who recently concluded: “that a new regulatory pathway for CBD is needed that balances individuals’ desire for access to CBD products w/ the regulatory oversight is needed to manage risks.”1 The reported antimicrobial properties of CBD combined with the recent proliferation of cannabinoid-containing products marketed to women for intimate care led us to explore the impact on the sentinel lactobacilli species associated with a healthy reproductive tract. Except for lubricants and tampons, the FDA regulates intimate care products as cosmetics. Even non-cannabis serums, washes, and suppositories are not required to be tested for their effect on the reproductive microbiota. We aimed to investigate the utility of easy-to-use, inexpensive in vitro assays for testing exogenous cannabis products on reproductive microbiota. In vitro assays can provide important evidence-based data to inform both manufacturers choosing both an active cannabinoid ingredient source as well as excipient chemicals and consumers in the absence of safety or quality data. In simple, straightforward exposure studies, we examined the antimicrobial activity of CBD and cannabigerol (CBG) on the most dominant vaginal lactobacilli species, L. crispatus, associated with good health.
The testing of readily available products containing cannabinoids, predominately CBD following the widespread legalization of hemp by the 2018 US Farm Bill, is not required beyond ensuring THC content is below 0.3%. Therefore, basic information on safety, quality, antimicrobial activity, bioavailability, and dosing is unavailable and undocumented. The situation is further complicated by the complex chemoprofiles of cannabis extracts based on the cultivar, the extraction methods and subsequent cleanup, and other chemical excipients in the formulation. The FDA has finalized guidance on quality considerations for clinical research for the development of cannabis and cannabis-containing drugs intended for human use.
One approach to backfilling non-existent safety and quality data for cannabinoid active ingredients and those products made from them is to apply or devise assays that can provide relevant toxicity data in an in vitrosystem. Farha et al. (2020) reported that seven cannabinoids are potent antibiotics, including CBD and synthetic CBG. CBG inhibited the growth of gram-positive bacteria, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), but not gram-negative bacteria unless their outer membrane was permeabilized (Farha et al. 2020). In addition, several volatile terpenes, the main constituents of essential oils extracted from Cannabis sativa L., also have potent antibiotic activity against gram-positive bacteria (Iseppi et al. 2019). We have previously written about the risks associated with disrupting the healthy microbiome of gram-positive vaginal bacterial species leading to dysbiosis (Orser 2022) and its further health complications.
Several successful approaches to assessing the toxicity of CBD have already been reported including human cell culture work by Torres et al. (2022) who showed that pure CBD has a repeatable impact on cell viability, but that hemp-derived finished CBD products had variable impact. Cultured human cell viability experiments demonstrated similar potencies across three different hemp-derived CBD products in the microgram per milliliter [mg/mL] range with increased viability at lower doses [2-4 mg/mL] and decreasing cell viability above 6 mg/mL (Torres et al. 2022). In the same study, the authors demonstrated that the presence of terpenes, specifically b-caryophyllene, in hemp extraction matrices also impacted cell viability.
Neswell, a cannabis therapeutics company in Israel, demonstrated through the application of their in vitroneutrophil cell line that cannabis extracts have inherent immune response biodiversity, suggesting that the choice of a cannabis source should be based on its function rather than on its chemoprofile (https://www.neswell.net). Inflammatory cytokine levels in inflamed peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PB_MC) showed a 10-fold difference across hemp extract products containing unidentified terpenes in suppressing the inflammatory cytokine, TNFa (Torres et al. 2022). The influence of CBD concentration on inflammatory cytokine production was previously reported by Vuolo et al. (2015) and Jiang et al. (2022).
Materials & Methods
Chemicals and Products Tested
THC-free, 99% pure CBD and CBG isolates were purchased from Open Book extracts in North Carolina (openbookextracts.com). All other chemicals including erythromycin (EM), and growth media were obtained from Sigma-Aldrich (St. Louis MO). Specific reagents in the qPCR kits were assembled in-house at MatMaCorp Inc. (Lincoln NE).
Monitoring Cell Viability: OD600nm and plating
Individual frozen glycerin stocks of L. crispatus HM103 from BEI Resources Repository served as inoculum to streak on a sterile MRS agar plate and incubated anaerobically at 370C for 24-48 h until individual colony growth was observed. Single colonies were used to inoculate MRS broth and incubated for 24-48 h at 370C which served as the inoculum for exposure to test products. Exposed cultures and all control cultures were incubated at 370C for 48 h with OD600 readings taken at time zero, +24 h, and +48 h using disposable cuvettes in a standard spectrophotometer. The products were also plated onto MRS agar plates to evaluate inherent contaminants that could affect turbidity values.
Molecular Analysis by qPCR
DNA isolation from bacterial cultures was done using the MatMaCorp (Lincoln, NE) StickE Tissue DNA Isolation kit modified for bacteria as per manufacturer instructions. Briefly, a lysis buffer is applied to the sample followed by a heating step, and a binding buffer is added, thus allowing DNA from the solution to bind to the matrix of the StickE column. The column was washed prior to eluting the purified DNA. Per manufacturer instructions, 10 µL of isolated DNA was used as a template for genetic analysis in a Lacto-TM assay (MatMaCorp). The assay is a customized TaqMan-based detection assay that is conducted using a four-channel fluorescence detection platform, the Solas 8 (MatMaCorp). The assay was designed to detect the unique 16S-rRNA DNA sequence for L. crispatus. Briefly, the assay is a probe-based method that begins with hybridizing the custom-designed probes with their desired nucleic acid target found in the sample. Once hybridized, detection takes place from the fluorescently labeled primer. The target has been assigned a channelon the Solas 8 and is detected independently.
Calling the Results
The calling algorithm uses first-order kinetics reaction properties (inflection point detection) in combinationwith a measure of the closeness of the signals associated with a specific target. Various indicators are tracked during the reactions to perform an on-the-fly analysis. The analysis is then consolidated by a measure of the similarity between the fluorescence signals at the end of the run. Aggregating values from the similarity measure, the end gain and the inflection point detection allow the Solas 8 software to make the call at the end of the run without having to compare a results library of known sample targets.
Exposure of L. crispatus
Anaerobically grown cultures of L. crispatus were exposed to either CBD isolate or CBG isolate at each of two concentrations [5 mg/mL] and [10 mg/mL] with all appropriate controls. All treatment groups were evaluated by qPCR, turbidity at OD600, and plate counts.
Molecular Analysis via qPCR
These data show the specificity of the Solas8 testing for evaluating these products, as a molecular-level screening is not influenced by test product solubility, opacity, or non-specific contamination present in some of the tested products that can interfere with optical density measurements.
Turbidity monitoring, albeit non-specific, confirmed the species-specific qPCR findings, that is no inhibition for the two cannabinoid isolates evaluated (Fig. 2).
In this limited in vitro study using a sentinel lactobacilli response, we have shown that 99% pure CBD and CBG isolates were not inhibitory at the two doses evaluated by complementary observations following turbidity, plating, and by qPCR. Limitations in this study prevent definitive conclusions regarding what individual or combination of cannabinoids or other cannabis secondary metabolites are inhibitory in vivo to dominant lactobacilli species in the reproductive tract. These limitations include commercial product testing without knowledge of excipients or impact on the bioavailability of any active cannabinoid ingredients. In addition, dose-response curves were not generated and exposure under micro-aerobic conditions was not carried out.
Cannabidiol’s potential as an antimicrobial agent may be limited by its extremely low solubility in water and a propensity to stick to spurious proteins limiting systemic distribution in the body as a therapeutic. Interpreting microbiome study findings to human health outcomes will require multi-disciplinary corresponding clinical data findings of disease diagnosis, processes, and treatment within populations. Nonetheless, this nascent translational research opportunity is vast with the promise of benefiting patient outcomes (Wensel et al. 2022).
Health Canada released a scientific review report on products containing cannabis, specifically containing 98% or greater CBD and less than 1% of THC (Health Canada 2022) while the FDA just concluded that there are no existing guidelines applicable for recommending safety and quality guidelines to manage risk for CBD products (U.S. FDA 2023). The Health Canada committee unanimously agreed that short-term use of CBD is safe at 20 mg per day up to a maximum dose of 200 mg per day and that packaging should include both dosing instructions and potential side effects. The Committee did not address the antimicrobial potential of CBD or CBG formulations or specifically vulvar or vaginally administered cannabinoids. There is clearly more basic physiological research needed on the impact of self-administration of CBD preparations based on the route of exposure.
Hopkins AL (2008) Network pharmacology: the next paradigm in drug discovery. Nat Chem Biol 4(11):682-90.
Iseppi R, Brighenti V, Licata M, Lambertini A, Sabia C, Messi P, Pellati F, Benvenuti S (2019) Chemical characterization and evaluation of the antibacterial activity of essential oils from fibre-type Cannabis sativa L. (Hemp) Molecules 24:2302; doi:10.3390/molecules24122302.
Jiang Z, Jin S, Fan X, Cao K, Liu Y, Want X, Ma Y, Xiang L (2022) Cannabidiol inhibits inflammation induced by Cutibacterium acnes-derived extracellular vesicles via activation of CB2 receptor in keratinocytes. J Inflammation Res 15:4573-4583.
There are a lot of risks throughout the entire supply chain in the cannabis and hemp markets. Legal and regulatory issues, quality control reliability, security problems, product safety, potency, and constantly changing supply and demand are just a few major risks cannabis operators must stay on top of. A lot of companies mitigate these risks by implementing programs to find the source and figure out what actions could alleviate it. Those actions can look like reviewing testing or certification reports, auditing supplier facilities, and much more.
Jennifer Lott, AMAS Service Delivery Director for the standards certification body, BSI, has over 25 years of experience in quality, safety, lab management, consulting, packaging, and systems development. She’s an expert in GMP, ISO 22716, 21 CFR 117, 21 CFR 111, 21 CFR 210-111, ICH Q7, WHO GDP, RSPO, food safety, GMP/HACCP and much more.
She is a panelist for an upcoming webinar, Supply Chain Risks in Hemp and Cannabis June 27, 2023. During that webinar, she’ll join other experts where they’ll discuss some of the supply chain risks cannabis companies face and what they can do to mitigate those risks.
Ahead of her webinar, where she’ll take a deep dive into supply chain risks, we sat down with Lott to get a preview for what she’ll talk about.
Q: What are the major supply chain issues faced by the cannabis and hemp markets currently?
Jennifer Lott: The U.S. market remains highly complicated for cannabis companies and investors. Fewer than half of U.S. states and territories have legalized recreational cannabis use as of Nov. 2022.
To this day, cannabis is still a Schedule one substance under the Controlled Substances Act, alongside drugs like heroin, LSD and ecstasy – an issue that has led to several regulatory and fiduciary challenges for growers, processors, and distributors of cannabis/hemp.
Legal concerns aside, cannabis companies operate much like other businesses and face almost the same exposures that most enterprises do. Here are the top risks cannabis businesses encounter, according to experts.
Distribution – Current regulations prevent products from one state to be transported to another state.
Natural disasters – including wildfires, storms, and flooding, can easily damage crops
Cybersecurity – Because of the type of information that cannabis companies handle, they can also become a prime target for hackers.
Despite the supply chain challenges mentioned above, the cannabis industry is growing, and its use is becoming more accepted in society, but still faces major challenges. These trends also will create a volatile and fast-changing environment cannabis companies in 2023. The big challenge will be deciding which of the scores of startups, IPOs and established cannabis companies can surmount the upheaval and succeed long term.
Q: How are companies mitigating risks and what tools are at its disposal?
Lott: Anyone involved in the cannabis/hemp business knows they need to manage their risk with a solid risk management plan.
The three biggest risks facing cannabis/hemp businesses aside from the supply chain issues mentioned above, include:
Employee theft – employees have easy access to the product, run cash registers at dispensaries, and generally know a lot about the inner workings of the company. Protecting against insider theft is critical for the business.
Product tampering – this can happen at any stage in the supply chain. Businesses whose products cause harm could be liable for injury and damages.
Compliance regulations – compliance varies from state to state and laws are frequently changing.
Thanks to regulatory uncertainty and limited access to tools other industries have access to, the cannabis industry likely will have an increased risk profile for the foreseeable future. This heightens the need for a structured, risk management approach. However, even with so many external factors out of its control, cannabis companies still can dramatically decrease risks by addressing internal strategies and processes.
Cannabis companies with effective, relevant, and well-documented risk management practices can better positioned to create and preserve capital, attract investment, and achieve long-term sustainable growth.
Jennifer Lott is speaking at the Supply Chain Risks in Hemp and Cannabis Webinar, taking place June 27 at 11:00 am EST. Click here to register.
About Jennifer Lott
Jennifer Lott is the AMAS Service Delivery Director for the internationally recognized standards certification body, BSI. Jennifer currently supports the quality and integrity of food and fast-moving consumer products. She is an accredited Lead Auditor and Trainer with over 25 years of experience in quality and safety, management system development, consulting, packaging, and laboratory management. Jennifer’s expertise includes GMP, ISO 22716, 21 CFR 117, 21 CFR 111, 21 CFR 210-111, ICH Q7, BRC GS Consumer Products, WHO GDP, EudraLex, BRC GS Storage & Distribution, BRC GS Packaging, BRC GS Agents & Brokers, RSPO, Food Safety, and GMP/HACCP.
The cannabis industry in the United States is booming. In just a few years, it has gone from a small, underground market to a multi-billion-dollar industry. This growth is due in part to the legalization of cannabis in many states, as well as the growing public acceptance of its use for both medical and recreational purposes.
The industry is still in its early stages, but it has the potential to be a major economic driver for the United States. However, the industry’s success has brought with it challenges, such as THC inflation. This is when growers inflate the THC levels of their products in order to sell them for a higher price. This practice has led to widespread lab shopping, as growers send their products to labs that promise to give them the highest THC readings.
THC Inflation and Lab Shopping: A Look Under the Hood
Among cannabis enthusiasts, a prevailing belief circulates, asserting that cannabis products with elevated THC levels inherently possess greater potency and induce more pronounced effects. Nevertheless, this belief rests upon a fallacy, for it erroneously assumes that THC levels alone dictate the overall potency of a cannabis product. Genuinely comprehending the potency and effects of cannabis products requires the consideration of an array of factors. These factors include the presence of other cannabinoids and terpenes, the method by which the substance is consumed, as well as an individual’s metabolic and tolerance peculiarities. For instance, a particular strain of cannabis with low THC content, but elevated levels of other cannabinoids and terpenes, may engender a more intense impact in contrast to a variety exhibiting higher THC levels but diminished quantities of other compounds.
This misguided notion that heightened THC levels correspond to augmented potency has contributed to a surge in the demand for high-THC products. Consequently, producers have resorted to offering incentives to labs that provide inflated THC numbers for their products. Thus, certain labs have engaged in a practice coined as “lab shopping,” whereby they furnish reports that align with the producers’ desired THC levels, rather than accurately reflecting the genuine levels present within the product.
The manipulation of THC levels and the deceitful practice of lab shopping inflict profound damage upon the cannabis industry, eroding the foundation of trust. The fact that growers selectively collaborate solely with labs that yield desired outcomes, generates a mirage of superiority surrounding their products, thus deceiving consumers. Consequently, unsuspecting customers find themselves in possession of goods that fall far short of the promised standards of potency or quality. Moreover, this predicament places labs that remain steadfast in their commitment to integrity and the provision of accurate test results at an unfair disadvantage.
Fighting Back to Eradicate THC Inflation and Lab Shopping in the Cannabis Industry
The relentless surge of THC inflation finds its origins in the glaring absence of standardized testing protocols within the cannabis industry. As each lab embraces diverse methodologies and tools, testing produces disparate outcomes. This dissonance becomes a fertile ground for unscrupulous labs, who seize the opportunity presented by this lack of uniformity to peddle false THC numbers. To compound matters, the scope for manual interference looms large. The solution to this problem is to create a set of standards that everyone in the cannabis industry must follow. It’s important for the industry to come together and establish a common set of rules for testing. This will ensure that all labs consistently follow the same procedures and produce accurate results. In addition, it is important to have different labs take part in proficiency testing to find outlier labs. States should also take quick action to punish labs that provide incorrect or exaggerated THC values in their reports.
It is extremely important to prioritize transparency among labs in order to address the growing concerns regarding the inflation of THC potency. State regulatory bodies can achieve this by conducting frequent audits to detect and correct any inconsistencies or inaccuracies in the data. To make this possible, state agencies need to hire skilled data scientists who can thoroughly analyze the data produced by labs. If the industry collectively works towards addressing these issues, it will enhance consumer trust in the regulated market. By eliminating the incentives that drive THC potency inflation, a more trustworthy cannabis industry can take shape and flourish.
Next, it is crucial to educate customers about the false notion that higher THC levels always result in stronger effects. Through effective communication and raising awareness, the industry can address the issue of THC potency and discourage the practice of selectively choosing labs with desired results.
The Importance of Deploying a Cannabis Lab Testing Software
Having a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) is essential to meet the challenging ISO/IEC 17025 requirements. This system plays a critical role in providing an extra level of assurance and trust in the accuracy of lab results. By automating processes, integrating analytical instruments, and adhering to rigorous quality standards, a cannabis lab testing software minimizes the possibility of manual manipulation of test results.
Furthermore, a cannabis lab testing software maintains a sample chain-of-custody (CoC) through the sample life cycle and tracks samples using barcodes. Furthermore, it generates custom reports that include scannable QR codes, which can be instantly shared with customers. By configuring the QR code, it becomes possible to include a link to the original Certificate of Analysis (CoA) produced by a lab. This allows buyers to verify the reported composition on the product label by referring to the authentic test results on the CoA. This approach promotes transparency, trust, and accountability within the cannabis industry.
A cannabis lab testing software carefully monitors and records all activities, such as staff logins, document modifications, sample records, and test results, with a date and time stamp along with the name of the person who performed those activities. This thorough record-keeping process eliminates any chance of manual tampering with lab data, thereby enhancing the reliability and defensibility of test results. Moreover, the system effectively manages the outcomes of various Quality Control (QC) samples to guarantee accurate test results. By comparing the test results of QC samples with the samples being tested, the system can identify any analytical errors and enable lab managers to fix them, enabling labs to uphold quality standards.
The cannabis industry has experienced swift expansion as a result of cannabis legalization in multiple states across the United States. This has brought about various advantages, such as increased demand for cannabis products and the creation of new employment opportunities and tax revenue. However, the industry has faced challenges such as the issues of THC inflation and lab shopping. Dishonest producers and labs take advantage of the lack of standardized industry practices to deceive regulators and consumers. To address this issue, it is crucial to establish industry-wide testing standards that ensure consistency and accuracy across all labs. State agencies must also take prompt action to penalize labs that provide false THC values. Additionally, educating consumers about the misconceptions surrounding high THC levels and potency is important to combat this detrimental trend in the industry. Implementing cannabis lab testing software can help reduce the potential for human error and guarantee the authenticity and reliability of lab data.
This nascent but fast-growing industry holds remarkable promise for medicine and the economy, which can only be realized if proper safeguards are put in place and malpractices are stopped in their tracks.
This is the first part of a series of articles designed to introduce an integrated pest management framework for cannabis cultivation facilities. Part one details an overview of the plan as well as pest identification. Part two comes out next week and will delve into the world of pest monitoring and record keeping. Stay tuned for more!
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a philosophy of pest prevention and control that integrates cultural, mechanical, physical and chemical practices to control pest populations within an acceptable degree of economic tolerance.
IPM encourages growers to take a step-wise approach to determine the most appropriate means necessary for avoiding pest-related economic injury through careful consideration of all available pest control practices.
When practicing IPM, less invasive non-chemical practices are given priority, until escalation necessitates otherwise.
This is Part 1: Pest Identification & Monitoring/Communications
Personal experience in a facility is a great place to start. Review your history and identify a list of pests that you have experienced in this or previous grows. Point out which pests currently exist where they were or are currently and possible sources of the contamination/infestation.
Map out your facility with clear entry/exits, plumbing & drainage and air flow access to visually see and understand potential access points for crawling, flying or airborne pests.
From your nursery mother room to cloning and vegetation areas, what are the transfer methods as you move from one area to another. Are pests present in these areas? Where could they have come from? Oftentimes, a cultivator may not have the space for their own mother and cuttings/cloning space. In these cases, where did the outsourced clones come from? What are the IPM controls in place for these genetic sources? Are they carriers of the challenges transferred to your own facility? It is important to identify the possible source of pest potentials
Does your flower room have white flies or fungus gnats? Locating these and identifying the likely source is a good place to start if you have an ongoing infestation.
Powdery mildew is a routine challenge if air into your facility is not filtered and sterilized to eliminate these spores.
What is the Source of Your Irrigation/Fertigation Water?
Water is a crucial element for high-value indoor farms such as those that grow cannabis. However, water can also be a source of disease-causing microorganisms that can negatively impact the growth and yield of crops. Monitoring, filtering and sterilizing the biological contents of water is therefore crucial in ensuring the health and quality of high-value crops.
Unfiltered water can contain a range of pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites that can cause root, stem and bud rot. These diseases can cause significant losses in crop yield and quality, which can be devastating for indoor farmers growing high-value crops.
Monitoring the quality of water that is brought into the indoor farm is the first step in ensuring that the water is free from harmful pathogens. This involves regular testing of the incoming water for parameters such as pH, dissolved oxygen, TDS, nutrient content and microbial load. This allows cultivators to identify aspects of the incoming water they need to address before the water is provided to their crops to prevent potential problems.
Is your plumbing building biofilm that is feeding into your irrigation lines? Obviously, there are many potential sources when you go through an inventory of the risks for your facility. From that initial step, you will build your management team and label who should be contacted when a pest is found. Do you have an IPM specialist or is this a resource that needs to be contracted to address an infection?
Building this communications tree is your first step to fewer pest issues and higher yields and potency.
For the complete white paper on Integrated Pest Management Recommendations, download the document here. Part two comes out next week and will delve into the world of pest monitoring and record keeping. Stay tuned for more!
History has shown that if companies fail to innovate when new technology emerges, even household name brands with enormous market share can squander their success if they are blind to anything that could ever unseat them from the top.
Kodak developed digital camera technology in the 1970s but didn’t envision a world where the film market wasn’t dominant. Toys R’ Us failed to adapt to the changing retail landscape, and Amazon became the chief source of online toy sales. Blockbuster famously laughed Netflix out of the room when the now-$149 billion behemoth sought to sell for a measly $50 million.
Brands in the cannabis landscape can also fall victim to this same misstep. New technologies are driving the industry forward, yet many brands are still standing by sub-par processes. Whether due to misplaced beliefs around automation or an unwillingness to invest, cannabis brands could suffer the same fate as many of these bygone-era brands.
The Financial Argument: Automation Reduces Overhead
The financial argument for automation is at the top of the list of motivators for most cannabis businesses. A great example of this is with pre-roll production. For cannabis brands still employing a “dexterous approach” to their pre-roll manufacturing, staying afloat to keep up with demand is a constant battle. Rebel Spirit, currently the number one pre-roll brand in Oregon, was burning through eye-welling amounts of money in labor costs to produce 300,000 pre-rolls per month. With a crew of 22 full-time pre-roll manufacturers, the team at Rebel Spirit quickly realized their process was unsustainable, and they were headed for an economic crisis if they didn’t cut costs.
They were using a knockbox-style unit which they had modified themselves in an attempt to force it to fit their needs. But this “semi-automated” solution simply wasn’t working. Rebel Spirit then turned to our team at RollPros to clean up and fully automate their production process, helping them to create quality pre-roll at scale with a fraction of the labor costs. (We are the Vancouver, WA-based designer and manufacturer of the Blackbird automated joint rolling system.) For them, it wasn’t a matter of greed, as some opponents of automation sometimes claim; it was simply a choice of going out of business or not. In competitive markets like the Beaver State, where every dollar counts, the case for automation was a no-brainer.
The Remote Argument: Automation Reduces Risk Of Human Error
It’s a basic concept: the more human interaction in your processes, the more risk for error. We, as flawed humans, are simply not capable of being as precise or consistent in our work as a machine can be. Consider the cultivation process. Most experienced cultivators will tell you that growing cannabis is easy, but growing quality cannabis is very difficult, with a lot that can go wrong.
Enter one of the most valuable automation tools for cannabis cultivators – automated irrigation systems. With your irrigation systems and nutrients on autopilot, cultivators can ensure plants get the ideal mix of nutrients regardless of whether you are on-site, remote or facing a staffing crunch. Sensors can provide real-time data so that water, nutrients or even light can be adjusted as needed. In many cases, even these adjustments can be automated. (Think AI hasn’t entered the cannabis space yet? Think again!) Sure, there is always a potential for issues no matter how advanced a system you use. But when you compare this to a farmer using a manual watering and nutrient system, there are far fewer opportunities for mistakes. Does a human feel the difference between .94 gallons of water and 1 gallon of water? No. But a well-calibrated irrigation system can tell the difference and even alert you if it goes outside of whatever tolerance limits you set.
When the cost of flower is high, human errors that lead to damaged or inferior product are often overlooked. But when flower prices drop as markets mature, success versus failure can be balanced on a knife-edge, and cultivators can’t afford to make mistakes.
The Skynet Argument: Automation Increases Productivity Without Taking Your Job
Whether AI is coming for our jobs or will destroy human creativity as we know it has been argued ad nauseum since the release of AI tools like ChatGPT and Midjourney. The good news? Automating your business doesn’t mean enlisting the T-1000 from Terminator 2 to terminate your 9-to-5. Think of automation as Arnold Schwarzenegger telling you to come with him if you want to live.
The truth is that any task that needs to be completed frequently or on a set schedule is ripe for automation. Automation eliminates tethering your most talented employees to cog-in-the-machine work that wastes their time and abilities. Freeing them up to focus on more high-value tasks like customer service, marketing, or new product development will likely make your business more profitable long term, and make your employees happier with their work.
No industry has been spared from the impacts of industrial automation, says Amar Olgeirsson, CEO and founder of Green Vault Systems, but, “labor is typically not reduced as a result of automation.” Instead, “production is increased, and workers’ value increases because of higher production in terms of units produced per labor time. By increasing worker efficiency, companies and corporations are able to pay their workers a higher salary,” says Olgeirsson.
The Performance Argument: Automation Guarantees Consistent Quality Every Time
Expansion across state lines means consumers know they can buy the same quality product whether they buy it on the East Coast or West Coast. You know that you can buy your favorite Red Blend wine whether you’re in Denver or Atlanta and expect to enjoy the same tasting glass (barring any unintended oxidization). If a customer purchases that same glass of wine, and it doesn’t meet their expectations of what it should be (it’s inconsistent with the last time they had it), a brand is essentially breaking a promise to that customer. When a customer doesn’t get what they want and expect out of a product, they’ll quickly move on to a competitor. Consistency builds loyalty… inconsistency destroys it.
The cannabis industry is notorious for producing inconsistent products. It’s not surprising, considering the near-total ban on state-to-state commerce, (thanks federal government!) And, of course, the variation that can occur from crop to crop, batch to batch or facility to facility. There are so many variables to just the cultivation process; the amount of light a crop gets, the type and dosage of nutrients, the growing medium that’s used, the amount of air flow in the facility… The list goes on, and that’s just the first of many processes needed before a product ends up on shelves! It’s nearly impossible for humans to manually manage and ensure consistency of all these variables without the help of some level of automation.
Nohtal Partansky, ex-NASA-JPL engineer and CEO of Los Angeles-based Sorting Robotics, teamed up with fellow NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory colleagues Cassio Santos and Sean Lawlor to found their firm that creates next-generation hardware and software for cannabis industry producers.
“Automation in the cannabis industry plays a crucial role in maintaining product consistency by reducing human error and standardizing processes across cultivation, extraction, and packaging,” says Partansky. “If brands are going to expand across states, consistency is a requirement if customer loyalty is ever going to be a market driver for sales.”
The Contamination Argument: Automation Limits Human Error & Contamination Risk and Improves Product Safety
Our industry demands very strict safety standards. Our customers deserve safe products, but beyond that, the testing requirements mandated by regulations in most markets are very, very strict. Each and every human touchpoint in your processes carries with it additional contamination risk. Even with stringent protocols, mold, mildew and other unwanted crits can more easily venture their way into final products as the human variable increases.
Automation minimizes these risks and improves the safety of the product for consumers, and reduces the risk of recalls or other regulatory issues. Consider that for many cannabis businesses in hyper-saturated, competitive markets, a significant product recall can be the end of the road. Automating production processes provides a reliable and consistent solution in an industry that demands the highest safety and quality standards.
“The new and burgeoning Cannabis industry and its consumers are no exception and possibly benefit it more than other industries. The medicinal qualities of Cannabis products make consistency, quality, safety, and traceability paramount to the consumer. Cannabis products are most often consumed by ingestion into the lungs which means product cleanliness and quality are essential to safety. Chemically derived oils and extracts would not be possible without automation equipment. Again, industrial automation is a huge benefit to the Cannabis space, to the producers, their employees, and maybe most importantly to the consumer”.
Amar Olgeirsson, CEO & Founder, Green Vault Systems
Olgeirsson’s take on products created on specialized automation equipment? “Products produced on purpose-built machinery are more consistent and of a higher quality which lends itself to better oversight, enhanced traceability, and improved product safety.”
The Physical Argument: Automation Eliminates Tedious & Overhead-Heavy Tasks
In an increasingly competitive marketplace like cannabis, streamlining processes and reducing the liabilities that come with human labor – like being sidelined from Carpal Tunnel – is key. Let’s consider the trimming component of the post-harvest process. Manual trimming is monotonous, low-paying for workers, and an unrealistic way to harvest cannabis at scale. Also, it’s hard to be successful when team-wide prescriptions for night-time wrist splints are a threat.
Leaning into “hand-trimmed” as a differentiator for your brand? Many connoisseurs will argue that hand-trimmed bud is superior because buds stay aesthetic and trichomes aren’t lost. That may have been true in the early days of automated trimming machines, but with today’s crop of super-sophisticated trimming technology, it is now nothing more than a myth. (Yes, myths and misled traditions can be difficult to overcome in our industry, but I digress…)
The Mobius M108S Trimmer, for example, allows operators to reduce the staff required to process thousands of pounds of product every year without compromising quality. It’s next-gen tech not found on traditional trimmers can produce hand-trim quality buds with minimal trichome loss.
When flower prices are high, especially in the case of newly-legalized markets, it can be easy for operators to overlook the cost of trimming, and pay their employees higher wages to offset the physical risks to their bodies. But what about when product prices inevitably fall once the post-legalization honeymoon period wears off? It’s unrealistic (and unethical, I believe), to pay employees minimum wage while putting their health and safety at a significant risk. In the above example, at some point, your operations will grow to a point where hand-trimming will dig you further into a fiscal hole every time you harvest.
The Future Argument: Automation Isn’t Going Away (and Your Competitors Know It)
Automation could cause you to lose people, just not in the way you might think. Ultimately, competitors in any space will invest in new technology to streamline people, processes and tools to establish a competitive advantage. This investment puts them in a better position to attract talented employees that stick around for the long term.
Automation is like a boat motor in the 21st century, and companies that don’t use it are paddling against the current. Sure, you can use a wooden oar, but your competitors know paddling is too much work and will strap a motor to theirs. The truth is that companies that drag their feet out of stubbornness or inability to see how the current situation could ever change will often find their employees jumping ship to go elsewhere.
“I strongly believe that automation not only propels our industry forward but also sets the stage for a more profitable future in cannabis production for those that embrace technology rather than fight it,” says Ryan Hoitt, CEO, developer & founder of Vape Jet in Portland. “I can confidently say that it enables businesses to fine-tune operations, improve product quality, and achieve unmatched consistency.”
Saying that you will eventually be forced to automate sounds harsh, but it’s largely true. As soon as your competitors deploy automated processes, they gain an advantage. If you don’t do the same, it will become more difficult to compete, stay profitable and stay in business.
The Consumer Argument: Automation Provides Consumers More Options
Automation isn’t going away, and it’s certainly not a fad like pogs or planking. Automation drives lower production costs, which means lower-priced products for consumers. This process has been behind the dramatic increases in global living standards and population growth since the birth of the Industrial Revolution and is not likely to change anytime soon.
Automation allows producers to manufacture a broader range of products and focus on providing the consumer with more options. Consumers want to be in control of their purchasing decisions, and companies that deliver variety will be the ones to reap the rewards.
Embrace the Future with Automation
History has shown us time and again that failure to innovate can lead even the most prominent brands to fall victim to their inability, or unbelief, in the necessity to evolve. Automation is a no-brainer in crowded and competitive markets.
No doubt, the future of the cannabis industry will trend toward automation. Businesses embracing it will have a significant advantage over those that do not. Companies that drag their feet in the face of disruptive automation risk resigning to the same fate as those brands that underestimated technology at the expense of their own existence. No industry is immune from disruption, and there will be dynamic entrepreneurs who will come along and see to it. Embrace the change, embrace automation and technology, and you’ll increase your chances of winning in the cannabis industry!
As the cannabis industry experiences a significant shift toward general acceptance and mainstream adoption, new modes of operation are popping up everywhere. The evolution and expansion of the industry beg for constant innovation, and the integration of NFTs and cryptocurrencies as payment options is at the crossroads between tech and cannabis.
Crypto and NFTs have grown in popularity in recent years. Non-fungible tokens are an interesting asset in the art and collectibles world, while cryptocurrency has made a name for itself by providing a unique kind of financial independence. More and more payment processors are embracing these new payment methods, and the cannabis industry is also slowly welcoming them.
In order to fully understand the cannabis-crypto connection, Swaroop Suri, founder of Melee Dose, a cannabis brand that’s been embracing NFTs and crypto as payment options, shared some insights. Their innovative approach to creating unique cannabis experiences with technology and creative branding makes them a pioneer of this movement.
What’s Happening with Cannabis and NFTs?
NFTs and cryptocurrency are exciting developments in an industry that carries the reputation for having a rocky relationship with the banking industry. The legal gray area surrounding the connection between cannabis businesses and the banking industry has given way to an onslaught of challenges, with many banks shunning cannabis because of its federally illegal status. While traditional banking can limit cannabis companies’ access to basic financial services, the decentralization that’s characteristic of blockchain opens up many doors.
In recent years, different brands have tested the waters by using cryptocurrencies and NFTs to enhance marketing and offer alternate payment options. While it’s still early in the game, trends are starting to appear.
One of these trends is using NFTs in marketing and branding, creating unique digital assets that can be collected. This gives an air of exclusivity, creates more immersive experiences, and helps forge a brand identity. NFTs are often a great tool to engage with customers and create a sense of community.
Melee Dose recently started integrating NFTs from Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) into product packaging and branding. This has allowed the brand to offer unique experiences, foster community engagement, enhance storytelling and demonstrate adaptability to an ever-changing world.
“This collaboration merges the worlds of fashion, art and technology, providing our customers with exclusive “IRL” products incorporating digital assets and driving brand affinity”, says Swaroop Suri. “By embracing the digital revolution and connecting with the influential BAYC community, we aim to redefine consumer experiences and build lasting relationships with our audience.”
Crypto Payments Aren’t Futuristic Anymore
Payment is another trend to look out for. Cryptocurrencies are becoming more accepted in many big industries, including cannabis. With traditional banks limiting access to banking services, crypto allows cannabis companies to offer decentralized and secure payment options.
Cryptocurrency offers more enhanced privacy than traditional payment methods, which is great for those who want to stay under the radar. Lower transaction fees are another plus, as a decentralized system is more flexible. The speed of crypto payments is also an enticing feature, as payments are usually processed more quickly than traditional payment methods.
So, how are brands accepting crypto as payment? Is it safe? Melee Dose started accepting cryptocurrency payments on their e-commerce store by partnering with Coinbase Payments, a leader in the crypto industry with a strong reputation and ease of integration.
Cryptocurrency may seem perilous to those who don’t know much about it, but siding with the right company can help ease those fears. Addressing concerns about crypto volatility, Suri “opted for a feature provided by Coinbase Payments that allows for immediate conversion of cryptocurrency payments into our local currency, ensuring stable revenue despite market fluctuations.”
By working closely with reliable payment partners like Coinbase Payments and implementing necessary features, companies like his are able to successfully overcome crypto roadblocks, providing customers with increased flexibility and convenience.
The Future of Crypto, NFTs & Cannabis
The future of integration between cannabis, crypto and NFTs is exciting and always on the move, meaning there are opportunities constantly arising and challenges ahead we have yet to tackle. As cannabis legalization continues to evolve, we might expect changes in regulatory frameworks that impact how cryptocurrency is used in the industry. While we can’t say what those changes might be, the fact that NFTs and crypto have become mainstream indicates a clear adoption, as the industry finds ways to integrate them. From blockchain integration and creative marketing to payment options and immersive experiences, they are here to stay.
Swaroop Suri and his team might’ve gotten in on the game early, but they know the future is expansive: “It’s possible that NFTs could become a significant part of cannabis marketing strategies in the future,” He says. “The cannabis industry can use NFTs in various ways, such as tracking crops and using intellectual property to promote products through packaging artwork, which is what our team at Melee Dose has accomplished.”
NFTs won’t stop there. “There is a possibility to use NFTs for establishing VIP programs that offer exclusive discounts and access”, Suri says. “The ownership of an NFT could grant special privileges and perks to customers when shopping with an e-commerce company, fostering a deeper connection with the brand and community and leading to customer loyalty in the long run.” NFTs offer diverse possibilities for cannabis brands to improve their marketing techniques and get creative.
When it comes to crypto payments, brands will surely continue to add crypto as an option in addition to merchant processors. Highly-regulated industries like cannabis can find many benefits in crypto, as experienced by Suri: “Accepting cryptocurrency can mitigate some of these issues by providing an alternative payment option that is not subject to the same restrictions as traditional payment methods.”
The excitement surrounding crypto and NFTs is understandable, and as the cannabis industry introduces new opportunities for those who are at the intersection of these two global forces, companies everywhere are changing their relationship with technology.
There are other brands hopping onto the this train as well. Household cannabis brands and popular companies like Plain Jain, Highland Pharms, American Green and Pharma Hemp are just some of the many that have begun accepting crypto as payment.
As the industry continues to evolve and grow, staying ahead of the curve and embracing technology with critical thinking and environmental consciousness is key. As a new, dynamic and exciting space with as many opportunities as it is filled with challenges to tackle down the road surrounds us, the one thing we know for sure is that this is just the beginning.
ASTM International has announced the approval of a new standard in development that could have potentially wide-reaching influence on the cannabis industry throughout the world. ASTM’s cannabis committee (D37) has approved the new standard (D8449) for development that aims to develop internationally aligned label specifications for all products containing cannabinoids.
According to the press release, The new labeling standard is the first of its kind, attempting to harmonize regulations throughout the cannabis industry with universally recognized labels that could be adopted by regulators anywhere in the world. ASTM member Darwin Millard has spearheaded the development of this new standard and believes it will have countless practical applications.
“Having the same information presented in the same manner across jurisdictions means consumers of products containing cannabinoids will have consistent information conveyed to them in a way they are familiar with,” says Millard. “This ensures consumers have the information they need to make an informed purchase decision, and will ultimately lead to increased consumer safety and confidence.”
ASTM International is a nonprofit, voluntary consensus-based standards development group. They are inviting feedback and input as they refine the standard and work on presenting it to the international cannabis community. “We welcome regulators, producers, and consumers from around the world to give us feedback,” says Millard. “This is intended to be a living document to remain relevant throughout this ever-changing landscape.”
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