Artificial intelligence is poised to change how you interact with the world — and that includes the world of cannabis. Artificial intelligence (AI), or computing systems that mimic human intelligence, is being applied in everything from growing operations to devices that roll your joint for you.
According to Meni Morim, interim CEO and former director of AI for Namaste Technologies, a Canadian global e-commerce cannabis and technology company, the trend to integrate AI into the cannabis consumer market is in its infancy but he foresees a time when AI will be fully incorporated into how cannabis users interact with the plant, from choosing a strain to how they consume it.
AI to Help You Roll
AI is already finding its way into cannabis-related hardware in the form of a smart grinder/miller and cone loader. OTTO is a one-button machine that uses sensors and algorithms to determine the condition of the cannabis — super sticky, dry or full of seeds and stems — and automatically adjusts how it grinds the plant to produce evenly processed cannabis. It then automatically loads it into a pre-rolled cone, according to Dave Richmond, CEO of Banana Bros., the company behind OTTO.
On Amazon, several customers pointed out the necessity of cleaning the machine often to prevent build up, especially if the cannabis is super-sticky. A few claimed the battery life was too short or reported other issues.
Richmond said that in the world of AI, OTTO is comparable to the intelligence of a chicken when stacked up against other systems with an intelligence level more akin to a dolphin or a monkey.
“OTTO isn't the smartest thing but it doesn't need to be,” he said. “It's smart enough for what it needs to do and can definitely do things a human can't do with the same accuracy.”
Banana Bros. was founded in 2017 and OTTO had its soft launch in April 2018, taking about 14 months from conception to market, Richmond said. The company chose to start with a smart grinder since it's central to the experience of sharing cannabis, he added. “We help people overcome something that's difficult: rolling a joint. Sharing a joint is like people coming around a table for food,” he said. “They bond over a joint. I don't see people passing around a vaporizer but we pass around a joint, that ultimate kind of peace pipe.”
Cannabinoids and Cancer
Cannabics Pharmaceuticals, which is focused exclusively on cancer and its side effects, uses AI for both research and diagnostics. The Nevada-based corporation has a fully-owned subsidiary in Israel licensed by the Israeli Ministry of Health to conduct research and development with cannabinoids. According to Eyal Barad, the company's co-founder and CEO, they've found that different combinations of cannabinoids have certain “apoptotic effects on various cancer cells, meaning if you find the right combination of cannabinoids, you're going to cause the cancer cells to die.”
On the research side, they're crunching massive amounts of data in their search for which cannabinoid combinations are the most effective on specific types of cancer, a massive undertaking that Barad calls “a big AI challenge.” As for diagnostics, Barad said the company is developing prediction models for treatment outcomes based on a patient's specific cancer and genetic makeup. The goal is to provide doctors and their patients with data that can help them determine the best strain of cannabis for their disease. As they collect more data into the system, their predictive AI will become more accurate, according to Barad. Eventually, they hope to be able to give precise instructions on dosage, regime, and quantities, among other specifics. “We're still in the beginning stages of this,” he said. “We're probably at least a year from having something able to give predictions on that.”
The company is currently going through the regulatory process in Israel to begin taking biopsies from patients, a process that should be completed by the end of 2019, if not sooner. Barad said the accreditation will allow Cannabics to commercialize its diagnostics.