As the medical marijuana industry continues to grow across the United States, so does the astounding amount of data to collect across all aspects of the industry. From regulatory bodies to cultivators, to consumers, everyone involved, or considering involvement, in the medical cannabis industry has something to gain from the collection of big data.
Understanding Big Data
To understand the importance of big data and cannabis, one must first understand what, exactly, big data is and how it can ensure success for the medical marijuana industry. Big data is the combining of data an industry collects at numerous data points. Through predictive algorithms, big data becomes a useful tool for that specific industry by predicting trends and gathering consumer behavior. Big data and cannabis mean collecting information and providing insight into various data points, such as:
- Patient demographics
- Regulatory compliance
- Market value fluctuations
- Product demand and availability
The collection of big data, and a company’s understanding and use of this data analysis, will become essential to their, as well as a patient’s, success within the industry.
Big Data and the Medical Cannabis Supply Chain
For those companies involved in the medical marijuana supply chain (laboratories, cultivators, processors, dispensaries), supplying data pertinent to their company is part of meeting state regulatory requirements. Many states require the use of traceability, or seed-to-sale, systems to detect the product’s chain of custody, as well as any potential diversion. These closed-loop systems are beneficial in collecting state-wide data analytics such as production, distribution, sales and market trends. These systems are also used to track a patient’s purchases, not only what they are buying, but monitoring the amount purchased to ensure they are not exceeding their state-regulated allotments. However useful these traceability systems may be to regulating bodies and medical cannabis suppliers, one group that is not benefiting from these systems is the patient.
How Big Data Benefits the End User
The big data that can be collected from the medical marijuana dispensary and patients could prove to be essential to the success and validity of the entire medical marijuana industry. Gathering information from patients in a structured and statistical way has the potential to provide many data points on factors such as:
- Patient’s condition
- Consumption method
- Cannabinoid content
- Desired effects and outcome of consumption
The data analysis of these factors, amongst numerous others, will be the information that physicians use when discussing or prescribing medical marijuana, as well as what medical marijuana dispensaries will use to inform patients. By turning this information into usable and accessible data, prescribers and dispensaries alike will be able to advise a patient on a medical marijuana treatment program based on statistical and analytical evidence. Furthermore, it will be what patients use to track the progress of their treatment and make future purchases.
The Future of Big Data and Cannabis
Cannabis is the fastest growing industry on the planet, with North American sale predicted to come in around $23 billion by 2021. Becoming data-driven will, no doubt, prove advantageous in gaining insight into the industry, but necessary to maintain relevancy. Data collection and analysis of patient information can be used to bring validity to the industry and serve as a starting point for future clinical research. Collecting data from this exponentially growing industry can only serve as leverage and security for the medical marijuana operations, regulatory bodies, and patients of the present and future.