Growing cannabis with crypto? It may sound like the plot for a new HBO television series, but this once far-fetched concept is now a reality. It’s all thanks to a new business strategy courtesy of California nursery Mendocino Clone Company.
In January, the nursery was announced as a combined venture from tech firm Global Compliance and the EMTRI project, the latter of which focuses on Northern California’s legendary Emerald Triangle region and bills itself as “a complete ecosystem created to build better outcomes throughout the entire cannabis supply chain.” Together, they’re hoping to prove that utilizing smart contracts to verify the authenticity of plants is the way of the future for cannabis cultivators.
Smart contracts serve the blockchain by acting as programs set to run upon completion of predetermined conditions (i.e. payment). They can also automate workflow, which is just what Mendocino Clone Company plans to highlight.
Building an Efficient Ecosystem
Why the need for improvement? As establishments specializing in plant genetics, keeping close tabs on everything from clones to seeds is of paramount importance. Considering the size and scale of numerous cannabis operations already in place across the nation, automating any aspect of what can otherwise be a labor-intensive, potentially error-prone process leaves more time for what matters most: growing the best cannabis possible.
At least that’s the plan, one which has reportedly already drawn early interest from an initial crop of commercial farms and retail dispensaries. The appeal is the ability to easily generate certificates for every clone batch via self-generated smart contracts, which provide each baby plant with a unique identity block linked to an Ethereum based-blockchain.
In practical parlance, these certificates make it a breeze to verify a clone’s authenticity and genetic lineage, while also offering added benefits in the form of access, rewards, and better rates on the EMTRI token, EMT, which debuted in Nov. 2022.
Riding the Crypto Craze
In a statement, EMTRI Corp co-founder Scott Zarnes noted that his company was “excited to be at the forefront of the cannabis industry,” touting his nursey’s claim as “the first in the United States to adopt this cutting-edge technology in this manner.”
Zarnes is not alone in his enthusiasm. To the contrary, as two of the more intriguing industries making headlines today, the evolving courtship of cannabis and crypto remains a topic of endless fascination — and quite possibly, one of vast potential as well.
Though certainly prone to folly, the appeal of combining blockchain technology with cannabis cultivation and culture at large has inspired a wave of innovations looking to bridge both fields.
In 2022, BitCanna entered the NFT market with the launch of Budheads — a non-fungible token collection targeting the stoner set. Later the same year, Mark Bonner, CEO of Cannaverse Technologies, announced the debut of a weed-focused metaverse known as Cannaland.
Speaking with CoinTelegraph, Bonner explained why hosting a virtual shop in Cannaland could offer benefits unavailable to businesses in the physical world. “The metaverse is a powerful tool that can address a wide range of verticals,” he said. “One example of this is in the realm of branding and advertising. By using a metaverse platform, businesses can create a 360-degree immersive experience for consumers.”
Contrast that opportunity with current restrictions that ensure most mainstream forms of traditional marketing — including television ads and social media campaigns — remain unavailable to weed brands, and one begins to see the appeal behind putting together a virtual alias unbound by red tape.
In addition, some of the core concepts that fuel crypto — anonymity, accessibility, and community — also make it an ideal bedfellow for cannabis brands eager to reach new eyes and expand their reach. And that doesn’t even factor in the possibility of using crypto to pay for cannabis, which would undoubtedly come as a welcome alternative to retailers stuck relying on workaround ATMs or cash-only operations.
The Digital Wallet Dilemma
As CoinDesk pointed out in a recent deep-dive on the issue, crypto’s “inherent volatility and high transaction costs make it a poor substitute for cash, dissuading many potential cannabis business owners from going through the trouble of setting up a digital wallet and learning how to accept crypto payments.”
There’s also the risk of running into familiar obstacles on the business side, as a Washington-based medical marijuana dispensary learned in 2018 when Coinbase shut down their account in deference to federal regulations. For these reasons and more, even in an age when taboos concerning consumption are finally beginning to dissipate, there are still valid reasons for caution when it comes to seeking community in the cannabis space.
Bridging the virtual cannabis culture gap was one goal of the pot-themed crypto collection Crypto Cannabis Club (CCC). It launched in 2022 as “the world’s first NFT-powered cannabis brand” and pushed hard to align its brand with a passion for connecting like-minded cannabis consumers around the globe.
Place Your Bets
CCC founders confirmed initial partnerships with existing notable brands like Highsman, Old Pal, Dr. Dabber, Vibes Papers, and Marley Naturals. It also aligned with the direct-to-consumer cannabis e-commerce platform CampNova to offer CCC token holders a substantial discount on the club’s exclusive line of premium packaged flower.
There were other perks too, including luxury getaways, all geared at offering a user experience that, at least as of now, cannot be replicated by any brand constrained to state-legal markets.
Naturally, the fragmented state and volatile markets inherent to crypto, in addition to the steep learning curve required to fully grasp its varied machinations, have served to keep advances in the realm to a relatively low boil so far. But the heat appears to be rising steadily as more cannabis companies turn to innovative solutions to tackle thorny practical problems. Is blockchain a viable answer? That remains to be seen, but some brands are willing to bet big on the possibility that it might pay off.
This article first appeared in Volume 5 Issue 1 of Cannabis & Tech Today. Read the full issue here.