Cannabis is one of the newest industries in Canada, and it's becoming one of the most tech-savvy thanks to data-crunching gurus like the developers at Knalysis Technologies. The company based in Fredericton, New Brunswick has developed an app that could revolutionize the cannabis experience for both medical patients and recreational connoisseurs.
The Knalysis Wellness Tracker helps consumers pick the best strain for them - whether they're looking for something to treat chronic pain, help them get to sleep or simply relax after a hard day's work. The app strives to eliminate the process of trial-and-error by suggesting the best strains for your needs. And it's free: you can download the Wellness Tracker right now through Google Play or the Apple App Store.
On top of that, Knalysis is trying to shore up the credibility of medical marijuana by collecting hard data to support medicinal cannabis use. Right now, the industry relies mainly on anecdotal evidence that can dismissed by cannabis sceptics like US Attorney General Jeff Sessions. So the data collected by Knalysis could sway lawmakers in the United States and other countries that haven't legalized medical marijuana yet.
To find out more, we reached out to Knalysis CEO Paul Methot to talk about the app, what the future holds for the Canadian cannabis industry, and how Opportunities New Brunswick is turning a small Canadian province into a world leader on marijuana.
(This is the first in a series of posts written in partnership with Opportunities New Brunswick.)
Tell us about Knalysis and what you do.
We make software for the cannabis industry.
We have three different platforms that cover clinics like trauma centers where patients go to get their prescriptions and their documentation filled out by doctors; we have software for the actual patients themselves so they can track the efficacy of their treatments; and we have software that helps growers, clinical trials, dispensaries -- anyone who needs to collect data on the efficacy of their own products.
How does your work contribute to the development of the cannabis industry?
The industry is suffering from anecdotal-based evidence. Even the doctors will admit that. So we're striving to actually give quantitative data to prove the efficacy of cannabis.
Right now data collection in the cannabis industry is still young. It pretty much amounts to point-of-sale data. Doctors and researchers are not seeing what works. They're just seeing what people are buying.
How do you go about gathering that hard data?
I'll give you an example. We have thousands of veterans with PTSD that come to our Marijuana for Trauma clinics across Canada. Most vets say they suffer from nightmares - one of the many symptoms of PTSD. They wake up in the middle of the night because they're reliving traumatic experiences in their sleep. So they're exhausted, they're fighting with their spouses, and all their other symptoms are worse for it.
Our doctors prescribe Pink Kush because it helps turn off their dreaming or slow it down so they get more out of a night's sleep. And through our data-collection app, we're able to determine that MedReleaf - one of the LPs in Canada - offers the absolute best Pink Kush in Canada for that. So they're getting the best possible cannabis to treat it instead of just a potential product that could help.
That's what we're striving toward - analyzing every symptom for every ailment treatable with cannabis and determining the best product or the best strain for it. If you have cancer, you want that hope of getting better. You don't want just an okay product. You want the best.
So is the app based solely on user reviews?
Our app collects data by monitoring moods and symptoms. We try to narrow the user's experience down to the most dominant symptoms because if you ask someone, they'll tell you they have 15 things wrong with them. We want you to focus on one or two so we can focus on treating those before moving on to the next couple.
We have a scale of moods that go from green (happy), down to red (angry/sad) with everything in between. At the beginning of what we call a session, our app asks the patient what symptom they're treating, how they're feeling and what treatment they're taking. Then at the onset - when their medicine might be just kicking in - we ask them, 'Have your symptoms or mood changed at all?' And after that, we ask them again at the peak. 'Okay, now your medication should be at the peak. How is your symptom now and how is your mood now?'"
We ask four times during what we call a session to try to determine the efficacy at different points along the way.
All this data goes into our app. And the user is able to look and track their own progress, see their own patterns emerge. But the data also goes to two other places: if they're part of a clinic system where they're using our patient-manager platform, all the data flows into their patient records. So next time they see their doctor or cannabis educator, that person can look down and go, "Oh, here are your symptoms from the past couple months, here are your moods. You're using this product and it's not quite working. Try this instead."
Or it might be working well, so they can retain that hope.
The app also tracks what we call 'impacts' through 10 generalized categories -- good news, bad news, spiritual, events -- basically, if you've gone to yoga, you might be in a better headspace, so we try to look for things that work in tandem as well.
Sometimes we just need to eliminate the data. If your dog died or your parents died, your mood is going to be horrible no matter what your treatment is. We want to be able to eliminate that sort of data so it doesn't cloud the results.
And patients can eliminate the process of trial and error by helping them pick the best strain.
Yeah, everyone has the anecdotal information. You can Google and find out how Leafly and other sites take the approach of crowdsourcing an opinion on strains. We want quantitative data. We want to get 10,000 people to use one strain for one symptom and see what happens. Then another for another symptom.
Eventually, you find patterns that let us step back and look at the really big picture. It's very different than the point-of-sale data.
What will recreational legalization mean for your company?
We don't want to compete with Leafly and products like that - that are kinda like Yelp for pot. That's covering off the recreation market right now just fine with questions like, "Did you relax on the couch? Were the cartoons better? How were the Cheezies?"
We're looking more for the medical data stuff, so our focus isn't really on recreational.
However, there is overlap. You might not have cancer, but you might want something to help you sleep and you're tired of taking Gravol because it's bad for your stomach. Or you want a replacement for Tylenol or a muscle relaxer. Our data can help people who want healthier alternatives.
What sort of help have you had with developing Knalysis?
ONB is doing a lot of great things to help. We've had numerous conversations with them and they've offered assistance in a lot of different areas. Everything from helping to subsidize wages, to helping to pay some of the marketing fees and costs associated with trying to bring in business from outside New Brunswick. They've talked about trade mission, they're talking about incentives for moving our grow operation (Abba Medix) here. They've offered a lot of things.
The overall support from the New Brunswick government is something no one expected to have. A lot of companies expected an uphill battle to try to get this taken seriously - to make cannabis a normal business. We've all seen banks like Royal Bank turning away customers because they do stuff with cannabis. And we assumed the government would take an old-fashioned approach to it, but it turned out to be the opposite.
ONB's showing that they're very forward-thinking. And they're trying to be helpful.
Where do you see the Canadian cannabis industry in 10-20 years?
In 'x' amount of years - and probably not that many away - Big Pharma is gonna come in and disrupt the whole vertical. They're gonna say, "Okay, people with cancer have these 10 symptoms. Which product or strain or cannabinoid profile is the absolute best at solving this symptom?" Then they're gonna patent it, grow it, and it will be a pill you see at Shoppers Drug Mart.
So you're gonna see a real shift between what medical looks like now and what it will look like in the future - pills and patches on the aisles of a Shoppers Drug Mart.
You'll also see the rec market explode in Canada over the next couple years. You'll see all the provincial crown corporations try to make attempts - like they did with liquor - at controlling it and putting rules around it. And then you'll probably see them open it up to private business. If they follow the system that we've seen in New Brunswick, they'll have the corporate stores and then they'll open up agencies.
When the agency market opens up, that's when you'll see a lot more opportunity for people. Right now, you wouldn't be able to open up your own legal dispensary or edible shop, but you might be able to in a couple years. That's when you see the social change. You'll see coffee shops turn into smoking shops like in Amsterdam. And edible shops - bakeries that handle both normal and infused stuff.
How would you like to see the industry develop -- ideally speaking?
It depends on your perspective. If I'm a medical patient, I want progress to be fast. I want Big Pharma to come in. I want regulations from the government to come in place. We've already seen some stuff happen in the states that we can look at like cautionary tales - like in Colorado.
You'll also see more consistency with product in Canada. There's a lot more regulation coming our way in terms of growing. So there will be greater consistency to the strains for medical use. And if you're in the medical industry, you want to make sure your strain is the same every time.
So I think the perfect world is going to be a very boring one that's regulatory based. But it will also improve the outcomes way quicker, it will stop all the negative stories that might come out. Like when you hear of some kid who eats the wrong chocolate bar and then falls out of a two-storey window and everybody goes, "Pot did it!" Well, regulations might've solved that. So my answer is probably boring, but that's the best outcome we can get because it will make things smoother.
That's probably how Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wants the industry to develop though - nice and uneventful.
Yeah, well, the more hiccups they have, the more outcry you'll get from the naysayers. And that will give them more power to slow it all down.
Well, one of the rules from when rec goes legal is you can grow your own plants at home. One of the current rules for medical is that you can grow your plants at home, and you can assign that growing power to someone else. Between the two, you're gonna end up with a scenario where a grow-at-home market and a grow-at-home education sectors will form. You're gonna see a lot of products that are directed toward growing at home - the grow-at-home kit to make it easy for you, with instruction videos.
Remember a few years ago when people started making their own wine and craft beer became popular? Then you began seeing all these stores appear that say, 'We'll make the wine for you." Basically the lazy version where you go in, pick out what they want, they make it for you, and then you can pick up your wine at the end. I think you'll see a lot more of that, where people sign their rights over to a company like that that does it for them. I think that's the sector that you'll see the most surprises in - the grow-at-home ancilliary businesses that will appear.
And you'll have consultants who you can hire to come to your home and make sure you're setting up your grow properly. Because it's going to be a lot more cost effective to do it at home, and a lot of people don't know how to do it right now.
What makes you excited about being part of the cannabis industry?
Twenty years of being in a lot of industries has shown me that everything has already been established - everything's been done. But marijuana is this brand new environment that just appeared where everyone needs help, everything needs shaping. I don't think we see that happen too often in a lifetime where a vertical appears and grows this quickly with so much money in it and so many consumer-altering properties to it.
This will change a lot of other industries. The other verticals will be influenced by this thing, and it's gonna grow so much more quickly than anything else might. We can almost equate it to when the internet came out and the change it had on consumers. This is just as big and important as that boom.
Was it a difficult decision for you personally to join the industry?
It happened by accident. We were just building software for companies and Marijuana for Trauma came along and said, 'Can you help us with all this?' And we became fascinated with it. We built all these cool products for them, and eventually we got invited into their family. Didn't plan on it. It happened organically.
What do you think legalization will offer New Brunswick in terms of economic development?
Well, there's the obvious stuff that we've seen from Colorado. The reduction of crime, the amount of taxes we'll be able to pull in to help bring down our debt. Then you have new businesses, new industry.
Do you think it will have an impact on New Brunswick culture as well?
I think it will have an impact on culture in general. Cannabis use has always been something that's hidden. The people who did do it only did it among their peers. It wasn't something people talked about openly. If you were at work or at the office, it's not like people bragged about their weekend and how high they got. It was always about this hidden thing that it seemed like everybody did but no one talked about.
So we might be surprised about who has been hiding with us in the cannabis closet all these years.
Oh yeah, and the people who didn't do it - the book club women are suddenly making cupcakes now, and they're putting sativa in it so they're more talkative in their book groups. I think we'll be surprised by some of the acceptance that we'll see come about as the culture changes.
Suddenly, it will be this open thing. And it will be done in such a way that will invite all the people who were always on the cusp of trying it but never did.
And I think you're going to see a culture change because people are learning more and more about marijuana - that it doesn't always get you high the same way. A sativa might make you sociable and talkative, while an indica might make you relax on the couch. I think more and more you'll see profiles like that emerge in a sort of craft weed sorta sense that I think will make the introduction to people who never did it before a lot easier.
What role do you see New Brunswick playing in the larger framework of legalization in Canada?
I think because of ONB's help, and because the government's standing behind cannabis businesseses, you'll see a lot of the sector develop in New Brunswick. You're seeing it already. A lot of the big players are moving here. There was the announcement recently of Canopy opening up a grow-op in Fredericton. Apart from Organigram already being here, Tetra Biosicence already moved here.
We're hearing more and more about other players either expanding their operations into New Brunswick, or just moving here completely. Our parent company (Canada House Wellness) is moving here as well. So the incentives are gonna make a real sector for it in New Brunswick that will be in the running as one of the largest ones in Canada eventually if they keep this up.
How will Canada help the rest of the world as a role model for legalization?
I hate using this term, but the marketing people like to say, 'we know their pain points'. So we're able to say, 'This is the struggle you're going to have here. Then after that you're gonna have this one.' Fortunately, we've been through it before. We can give you advice.
Along the way, we'll have to break down a lot of stigmas and stereotypes surrounding cannabis use. Do you have any tactics for combating those old prejudices?
Education. I know that's not a very sexy answer, but that's the truth. The more you can teach, and the more you can back it up. And fortunately, the data we're gathering can really help out.
We're already seeing that acceptance. We've already reached the tipping point where a lot of the world is now looking at doing this.
Alright, the last question's a fun one. If you were asked to develop a strain for New Brunswick, what would you call it?
Tidal Bore. We have the highest tides in the world. And that creates a wave when it comes in that's called the tidal bore. If you stand on that muddy river, you'll see a wave come in - this giant wall of water hits you.
I love that. Great deep cut of New Brunswick culture that makes it fun and unique.
The Province of New Brunswick recognizes the significant economic growth opportunities emerging from increased demand and legalization of cannabis in U.S. and Canadian jurisdictions.
Opportunities NB (ONB), the province’s lead business development agency, has made cannabis, as well as industrial hemp, priority sectors, actively aligning its efforts to ensure the economic and regulatory portions of these industries connect.
Contact Steve Milbury, Senior Director of Special Projects, to learn more about becoming part of the New Brunswick cannabis industry.