How open source technology is used in the budding cannabis industry

“Bring me some reefers!”

– Ralph, Reefer Madness, 1936

Open source technology is being used in the budding cannabis industry around the world as legalization becomes more common
Open source technology is being used in the budding cannabis industry around the world as legalization becomes more common

Marijuana cultivation and use can be traced back to about 8000 BC Siberia. It’s medicinal use (cannabis sativa) is thought to begin around 4000 BC. Hemp (cannabis sativa L) has also been used in manufacturing, but does not contain the psychoactive properties of cannabis sativa.

Marijuana has gone by many names: maryjane, ganja, reefer, pot, weed, wacky tobacky and many more. It has been a part of human civilization for many centuries, but for much of that time its us has been frowned upon or deemed illegal. Perhaps the earliest was Soudoun Sheikouni, the emir of the Joneima, in Arabia, who prohibited its use in the 1300s. In 1787, Madagascar’s King Andrianampoinimerina, made the use of cannabis punishable by death.

Uruguay became the first country to legalize the use of marijuana in 2013, followed by Canada, in 2018. In the United States, marijuana use is being decriminalized state-by-state, with Colorado and Washington decriminalizing its use recreationally in 2012. As of this date, 11 states and 2 territories have legalized marijuana for recreational use (update, March 28, 2021: with New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo announcing that NY will legalize adult recreational use, the total becomes 17 states [see chart]).

Joint Projects

Open source solutions, technology and data is, of course, active in this industry for entrepreneurs, researchers and consumers. OpenTHC provides a platform for all parts of the cannabis community. “OpenTHC is a suite of time-saving tools that can be used by all parts of the cannabis community. Growers, processors, labs, retailers, regulators and software developers can benefit from open-source and licensed offerings from OpenTHC,” according to their website.

The OpenTHC POS package is a web-based point-of-sale, customer loyalty, online-menu system that integrates with BioTrack (cannabis software and business solution that covers requirements of compliant seed-to-sale tracking and reporting), LeafData and METRC (cannabis regulatory system). OpenTHC POS is used for point-of-sale, in-store signage, receipting, loyalty programs and vendor management.

Compliance Reporting Engine is a simple software solution from OpenTHC is for collecting and reporting on crops of cannabis or other tightly tracked, regulated products. A simple setup of an event-object-audit-log database, along with the API end-point to collect the necessary details. “The CRE is the core database schema (PostgreSQL), API (PHP/Slim) and core test cases (PHPUnit).

This system is designed primarily to use ULID formatted primary identifiers for all objects. However, it is capable of handling identifiers from legacy systems as well,” according to their website.

Open source solutions are available to enhance a cannabis dispensary’s webstore. WP Dispensary is a complete marijuana menu software solution for the cannabis industry. The set of WordPress add-ons can extend any WordPress theme. Maple Haze Canada is one example of WP Dispensary in action.

Olympia, Washington’s Cannabis Data supports the fresh flowering of cannabis and its cultivars (medical, CBD, adult-use, and hemp) around the world. The dataset contains a variety of cannabis data from the states of Washington and Nevada. One such dataset is a collection of Jupyter Notebooks exploring public Cannabis data from the state of Washington.

The Connecticut Data Collaborative has marijuana use data for as recent as 2016.

Grow Your Own

The Open Source Seed Initiative is an organization whose mission is “to maintain fair and open access to plant genetic resources worldwide in order to ensure the availability of germplasm to farmers, gardeners, breeders, and communities of this and future generations.”

Many independent breeders are needed to secure and foster a rich diversity of crop varieties. The private seed sector is unable to fulfill this function. OpenSourceSeeds aims to establish a non-private, commons-based seed sector. They envision that this will become the second pillar of seed provision. Making seed a commons has huge potential and is necessary to conserve seed diversity.

3Dponics’ CEO and Creative Director, Michael Golubev, as reported by 3Dprint.com in 2015, says of their hydroponic project: “We announced the world’s first 3D-printable hydroponics system for medical marijuana.” The system, which Golubev says is targeted toward urban areas, makes the cultivation of marijuana much easier and hassle-free. The 3D printable system has three parts — the planter, the pot and the lid — all can be customized, shared, and 3D-printed from virtually any desktop 3D printer. Once printed, these parts snap together, creating a marijuana growing system, small or large.

æternity, an open-source blockchain for building decentralized applications, is in the process of creating a supply chain management platform for the cannabis trade alongside UruguayCan, one of South America’s leading cannabis production companies.

The solution that æternity will implement allows the registration and tracking of cannabis strains from the seed to the final product, combining the technology of blockchain and IoT, while also offering the possibility of creating decentralized applications.

æternity Americas CEO Pablo Coirolo explained that blockchain technology can provide security and confidence about the quality of medical and recreational cannabis.

“We want to be the first to offer a business-level solution in partnership with leading technology providers and cannabis producers, processors and distributors. æternity technology is ideal to capture the history of cannabis throughout the supply chain, ensuring consumer safety while exercising regulatory control,” described Coirolo, as reported by CryptoNinjas, in September 2019.

Canada is Rolling in Cannabis

E-commerce is smokin’ hot for Canadian cannabis these days. Some provinces choose closed-source SaaS, but others, such as Yukon, use open source solutions for cannabis e-commerce.

The Prince Edward Island government-run retail outlet, PEI Cannabis, uses Shopify, which is also used to run the provincial online cannabis shops for Ontario, British Columbia and Newfoundland.

Cannabis Yukon, the Yukon government-run retail outlet, uses the open source platform, Drupal.

The 20s will be High Times for Cannabis

Cannabis will continue to grow in use and acceptance in the 20s as more and more jurisdictions decriminalize and legalize its use for responsible adults, medicinally and recreationally. According to the Motley Fool, six states are looking to legalize cannabis in 2020: Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, New Jersey and South Dakota (see above, as New York will become the 17th).

Reefer Madness, 1936
Reefer Madness, 1936
Reefer Madness, 1936

If you want a historical perspective of “reefer,” you can watch the full-length movie, Reefer Madnessa cautionary tale featuring a trio of drug dealers and innocent teens who become addicted to reefer cigarettes — now available in the open in the public domain.

Director of Communications and Marketing at Corning Community College in Corning, New York. Writer/correspondent for Opensource.com. Google and Adobe certified.