From cryptocurrency to cannabis: A Q&A with Joel Semczyszyn

From cryptocurrency miner to Microsoft engineer to leading the charge to combine cannabis and blockchain, Joel Semczyszyn, CEO of Rubikon Blockchain Corporation, has shown that diverse experience is a strength when leading the fast-paced cannabis tech sector.

“As cannabis becomes legal, we have a blank slate to create and implement technology solutions that solve problems existing providers haven’t addressed.” – Semczyszyn

Joel, congratulations on being nominated for BotaniQ’s Power 10 in both the Under 30 and Industry Disruptor categories. How do you feel about being recognized by the cannabis industry?

Validated. It’s a testament to the need for a decentralized data-driven platform like Rubikon Cannabis Blockchain Network (CBN) in the cannabis space. We are proud to have created a solution that all stakeholders in the sector can benefit from. I’m very humbled by the nomination, but would not be here without the team at Rubikon.

Read also: BotaniQ announces Power 10 of the Canadian Cannabis Industry award winners

Coming from the tech industry, how did you get involved with the cannabis industry?

It all started when one of our co-founders told me about how cannabis helped treat his girlfriend’s seizure condition. As I learned more about what they went through trying to find products to suit their needs, I realized how important reliable information was for patients looking to try cannabis therapy and I knew that we could provide that.

So, what does blockchain have to do with cannabis legalization?

Actually, a surprising amount. Digital currencies use the blockchain to verify that transaction information is accurate and immutable (can’t be changed). Our product, Rubikon CBN (Cannabis Blockchain Network), uses a distributed ledger to give every data point a digital fingerprint that ensures information has not been tampered with. This allows our platform to increase the transparency, efficiency and data integrity for the entire cannabis supply chain. We see this providing huge benefits across the cannabis industry, especially for global markets looking to implement a comprehensive solution.

This sounds a lot like the Seed to Sale softwares that have been gaining popularity. Why does Rubikon use blockchain when other companies use existing technology?

That’s a good question and one we get a lot. It really came down to finding the right tool for the right job. Using blockchain to verify information stored on Rubikon CBN brings unparalleled data security and transparency to the cannabis industry. It allows us to track changes to the exact moment it occurred and the individual who made the change. This creates a completely accountable information ecosystem where data can be shared and tracked by regulators to improve consumer confidence. This is something that traditional softwares cannot do.

Rubikon does more than provide the most secure Seed to Sale tracking solution. Using RFID and hardware integrations, our proprietary solution connects the entire cannabis supply chain to reduce labour costs and data entry at every point of contact. We take all the collected data and make the necessary information available to the consumer, so customers can know they made a safe, informed purchase.

It sounds like you have big plans. Everyone seems to have a different idea of what problems will come with cannabis legalization. What major issues is Rubikon trying to address?

We believe that the number one priority should be public safety. This means transitioning the existing black market into regulatory compliance to eliminate unsafe practices. An immutable product information system would isolate illicit cannabis that enters the supply chain at any stage and prevent legal products from being diverted to the black market. This is especially important since deadly pesticides have been found in three quarters of illegal grow operations. By utilizing RFID to minimize human error, Rubikon CBN will accurately account for every plant grown, sold or destroyed to make sure it gets where it needs to. Imagine being able to track changes to product information to the person responsible in real time, at any point from cultivation to consumption; that’s what we do.

This story originally appeared in the BotaniQ Magazine’s print publication. Click here to download and read the whole issue.