Thailand moves to secure medicinal cannabis on blockchain

Blockchain technology is to be used to secure the supply chain for medicinal cannabis and poppy straw for pharmaceutical opioids in Thailand.

The deal between British blockchain firm FarmaTrust and supply chain advisors Peterson Projects and Solutions Asia aims to facilitate new industry, investment and job creation in Thailand and follows recent moves to legalise medicinal cannabis in the south east Asian country.   

Specifically, the agreement will look to support the co-design and co-creation of new systems for the sourcing and tracing of medicinal cannabis, which can be used to treat a variety of conditions and pain, as well as monitoring the legal trade of poppy straw from Afghanistan for the pharmaceutical industry in Thailand. 

The agreement and implementation of blockchain will enhance supply chain security for local and international pharmaceutical companies and emerging medicinal industries, as well as increase traceability and transparency to ensure pharmaceutical product quality and reduce the circulation of counterfeit drugs, the firms said.  

Rachel Zedek, director of Peterson Projects and Solutions (Thailand), described blockchain as “a new tool to enhance supply chain management”, which will be critical for the growing medicinal cannabis and poppy industry in Thailand.

“We will be working together to help create new opportunities and solve some pretty serious challenges,” Zedek said in a statement. “We know 90 per cent of illicit opium comes from Afghanistan and serves as raw material for the production of illegal drugs. Simultaneously, there is a shortage of raw material to create high quality ad affordable prescription opioids in Asia as well as for lower income communities across emerging markets in Asia and Africa.”

The use of blockchain will also provide an opportunity to use better data to create new efficiencies and opportunities to scale the inclusion of smallholder farmers, communities and low-income consumers, she added.

Raja Sharif, chief executive of FarmaTrust, said the partnership was an exciting development. “For us, this is the next step in helping to create a fully transparent drug supply chain. By partnering with Peterson, we will harness their expertise in Asia to create safe, transparent, and high-quality supply chains to eliminate counterfeit drugs. The ultimate goal is to save lives using blockchain technology and to help Peterson and their supply partners meet their legal requirements and coordinate efficiently.”

A number of countries and states have made moves to legalise medicinal cannabis recently, including Australia, Canada and the US states California and Florida. The global market is estimated at $56bn.

Thailand has found the concept to be popular among legislators, state officials, some health experts and the National Farmers Council and took the step recently with the intention of becoming a medical marijuana hub for the Asia region. The government has also approved a five-year pilot project to commercially grow hemp for medicinal use.

For countries and states legalising cannabis for medicinal purposes but keeping its recreational use under wraps, there is the issue of how to ensure the legal supply chain stays intact, clamping down on illicit trade, while also promoting the growth of a new industry sector.

Meanwhile, cases of counterfeit and mislabelled cannabis oil have recently been reported in the US news, a trend that could become more common if there is more widespread legalisation of medicinal cannabis.

Photo by Rick Proctor on Unsplash

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