Will Cannabis Soon Have Molecular ‘Tags’ to Trace Its Origins?

Young Marijuana Hemp Plants

CertainT molecular tags can trace cannabis’ origins

by Ben Hartman, July 28, 2020

The world of cannabis has never been one of black and white margins and clear, rigorous, or universal standards. Only recently has it become subject to any regulatory framework at all, save for criminal prohibition. How, in the legal cannabis era, does one verify a product is what its label claims it is, what strain it is, and where it came from?

One New York-based company thinks it has the answer to those questions, with technology it says will allow cannabis producers, customers, and regulators to track cannabis flower from seed to harvest to the dispensary shelf.

Applied DNA Sciences’ “CertainT” platform tags raw cannabis materials and products with a unique molecular identifier that the company says can be tracked as the product travels through its entire supply chain, potentially enabling new levels of compliance, quality control, and safety.

According to John Shearman, Applied DNA Sciences’ vice president of marketing & cannabis business lead, this method has already been used to great success in the textile industry. The company applied its molecular tags to cotton before it was shipped from the gin in order to verify the finished products’ components and origins.

“In cotton, people were claiming that it was 100% Pima cotton and when we tested the materials, especially bedsheets, we found that over 80% of it was blended with a different cotton,” Shearman said.

In addition to cotton and other textiles, Shearman said the company has also used the platform to track stolen and counterfeited goods in security and crime prevention and to track and authenticate parts used in the military hardware supply chain, among other uses.

Two years ago, they were approached by a cannabis company that asked if the technology could be used for cannabis. Applied DNA Sciences saw the potential and went full-speed ahead applying the system to cannabis, Shearman said.