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Developers Needed: Cannabis Software Company MJ Freeway Goes Down, Leaving Over 1000 Dispensaries in the Dark

MJ Freeway is a cannabis software company widely used for POS, inventory tracking, and data reporting by thousands of American dispensaries. On January 8th, service was disrupted nationwide in what the company is claiming to be a maliciously-designed attack.

Thousands of dispensaries lost access to their POS systems and all transaction histories. Service is slowly being restored on an individual client basis, though retailers do have access to a temporary POS terminal.

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The incident has caused quite a stir in the nascent cannabis industry, as technology services once again reveal just how vulnerable they can be. Without their indispensable POS systems running, many retailers closed shop, affecting cannabis patients and purchasers in twenty-three states, according to MJ Freeway’s FaceBook page.

Cannabis sales plummet when transactions are taken down by hand

Cannabis sales plummet when transactions are taken down by hand

MJ Freeway’s disruption occurred on the heels of the state-run database in Nevada accidentally exposing thousands of business applications, including detailed personal information. Clearly, cannabis needs more professional developers if this industry wants to catch up to the standards set by other technological communities.

MJ Freeway claims that no personal information was at risk during the incident, although some data security experts are not convinced. Still, the very thought of exposing information about cannabis patients, whether its personal or generalized consumer trends, should be a reminder that technology is fragile, and we need to be very serious about security.

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If the allegations of an attack are confirmed, MJ Freeway has stated they will pursue criminal charges.

Why Cannabis Reports is Qualified to Report

Cannabis Reports is a qualified source when it comes to cannabis technology. We constantly report on technology and the role it plays in creating a safe, reliable, and successful cannabis industry.

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Our Open API supports thousand of developers and hundreds of applications by offering access to information on over 9000 strains and 19000 products. We never stop encouraging technologists to enter the cannabis space and create wonders for the people who love this wonderful plant.

Please note, many publications are calling this a “hack” with very little regard to what actually occurred on the technological side. There are many possibilities as to what caused this incident, and as a community, we should refer to that accordingly.

What We Know About the Incident

Sometime late Saturday January 7th, MJ Freeway went down. One of the ubiquitous softwares powering cannabis sales across the country became inaccessible at thousands of retail locations. MJ Freeway claims to have “nearly 50 percent” of market share, and the outage made a huge dent in national sales that continues while service is being restored.

Some dispensaries began taking orders by hand, others simply closed to avoid the nightmare of non-digital sales. Certain states actually have exclusive contracts with MJ Freeway that require retailers to rely on the software, making legal cannabis nearly inaccessible in those regions .

By Sunday January 8th, MJ Freeway’s Executive Director of Data and Marketing, Jeannette Ward, made a statement on the incident, then stating that users should expect access within 24 to 48 hours, by Monday or Tuesday the 9th and 10th of January.

On Monday January 9th, the company notified users that the outage duration could last between 72 hours to three weeks. Some clients reportedly got access to limited service today, although restoring  historical transaction logs will take hundreds of development hours.

Currently, MJ Freeway’s site hosts an explanatory message emphasizing: “On Sunday, January 8th, [our] infrastructure was attacked,” and “NO client or patient data was extracted or viewed in the attack.”

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The first MJ Freeway clients now have access to a temporary POS resource that allows them to conduct sales, but historical records, like sales history and trends, remain inaccessible.

Thankfully, MJ Freeway immediately understood the gravity of the situation and began work on a solution that could keep retailers open for business. The company reports that they have been working non-stop to resolve issues for all of their customers.

Damage Report: Community Response to the Incident

The community was quick to react, as thousands of patients and business operators were forced to endure the lengthy process of tracking retail with pen and paper (and in fact, certain states penalize the use of handwritten ledgers for cannabis sales). The result was long lines and slow transaction times, costing retailers anywhere between an estimated $1,000 and $10,000 per day, depending on whether the retailer shuttered their store completely.

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One client who voiced their grievances online demanded a full refund for the inconvenience they continue to experience. Others were quick to jump into the conversation, offering both sympathy and disdain for MJ Freeway’s predicament. Competitors of MJ Freeway were quick to pounce on the opportunity, offering sign-up deals and promising a working POS solution within 24 hours of set-up time.

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As the MJ Freeway team scrambled to resolve the outage, some clients began their own investigation into what possibly went wrong. One individual presented the possibility that the incident could have stemmed from the use of an outdated version of Drupal, a content management software used to created digital frameworks.

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The individual also expressed their apprehension to accept that no user data was viewed or extracted, and asked the company to be transparent and release an incident report.

A different user on Reddit posted an in-depth assessment, based on their professional experience, as to what likely caused MJ Freeway to go down:

Comment from discussion MJ Freeway.

With such a large percentage of the market share for cannabis POS, the loss of MJ Freeway negatively impacts the entire cannabis industry, even if it is just for a few days or weeks. It is likely that several MJ Freeway clients will switch over to a competing software due to a loss of trust.

Flowhub and BioTrackTHC are two of MJ Freeway's competitors that are likely snatching up disgruntled clients

Flowhub and BioTrackTHC are two of MJ Freeway’s competitors that are likely snatching up disgruntled clients

MJ Freeway will have to go above and beyond to restore their service, and retain the bulk of their customers. The outage will likely shift resources from the technological partnerships that MJ Freeway has announced with other cannabis businesses, like Weedmaps (search), Cannabase (wholesale exchange), and MassRoots (social media).

Resolution, Hopefully to Include Incident Report

MJ Freeway says their team is working around the clock to resolve the issue, restore service, and that already a handful of clients are able to operate on a temporary site.

MJ Freeway is currently employing a 3rd-party security review, although it is unclear if they will release an incident report.

This comes right on the heels of the Nevada incident, in which nearly 12,000 business applications were exposed. The proximity of these two incidents highlights the immediate need for serious technologists to enter an industry with so much personal data on the line.

The company has remained adamant that no user data was ever available. According to MJ Freeway, this attack was malicious and brought down their infrastructure, but none of the data was visible due to strong encryption techniques.

“The attack was aimed at corrupting, not extracting, data… What that means is all client-patient data is still protected, still safe, still encrypted and was not viewed by the attackers.” Jeanette Ward, MJ Freeway’s Marketing and Data Director, during an interview with The Cannabist

MJ Freeway experienced a massive outage in November of 2014, when a technical issue brought down the system for their roughly 1,000 clients. That incident supposedly originated during a migration to an improved hosting service with the intention of improving site functionality. Many users left MJ Freeway after that incident, stating that the outage made their retail location appear unorganized and unprofessional.

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The public perception of the cannabis industry is typically forgiving, especially considering the infancy of many of the foundational technologies used by retailers and brands. We hope to see service restored quickly, as the estimated financial losses per day are enough to permanently affect small businesses.

Incident-Report

We also hope to see an incident report released so that the entire cannabis tech community can learn from this mishap and strengthen security. Whether it was a shady competitor, a disgruntled employee with inside access, or a breakdown of the technology itself, knowing the cause will help everyone prepare for the future.

Openness is essential for a stronger and better connected industry, and qualified developers are the key that will open the door.

The Longterm Solution: Cannabis Needs Developer

At the end of the day, cannabis needs technology, and it needs competent and driven developers to build it. There is a massive opportunity for technologists to create the tools so desperately needed in the cannabis space, and incidents like the MJ Freeway outage prove how impactful technology can be in a growing industry, for better or for worse.

Cannabis Reports supports hundreds of developers as they design applications for cannabis, from POS systems to chatbots, and everything in between. Our goal is to make the underlying technology ingredients available so that the master chefs of the software world have a full refrigerator while they cook up their ideas.

slack-imgs.comTo join the Cannabis Reports developer ecosystem, sign-up for free on CannabisReports.com and request an API key to start building today.

For the most up to date info on Cannabis Reports, follow us on Twitter, and like us on our Facebook page.

The Horse Named Cannabis: Building a Database to Focus on Breeding and Lineage

Thoroughbred horse racing is a major industry that rests on generations of selective breeding. The horse racing industry does a wonderful job of keeping records of each horse’s lineage.

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In an article published this past March, writer Cory Wray discusses the similarities between Thoroughbred horse racing and cannabis breeding. Wray does a wonderful job of equating the two industries by focusing on a filly named Cannabis.

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Wray is clearly passionate about Thoroughbred horse racing, along with the desire to navigate the genealogies of the thousands of cannabis strains available today:

“Imagine if you could type a strain name into a database (horse racing has brisnet.com) and you could see the strains breeding and pedigree. In horse racing, you know the horse’s entire lineage, the breeder, the trainer, the jockey, everything.”

-Cory Wray, from “And They’re Off… Similarities of Cannabis Competitions and Thoroughbred Horse Racing” (Feature Image Above)

Luckily for Wray, Cannabis Reports does in fact have a database that allows people to search for the complete genetics of a particular strain. And, precisely as Wray imagines, it is important to communicate all of the factors that went into that strain.

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Cannabis seed companies stabilize cannabis genetics and distribute them, which is similar to how horse breeders collect stud fees.

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Cannabis is grown by many different people in a variety of environments, and each cultivator is going to end up with something different. Like a trainer may specialize in improving a horse’s capabilities on turf or dirt tracks, growers also have different specialties.

The jockey in this analogy actually ends up being the consumer. Whether they are a patient or an enthusiast, or both, everyone has unique experiences and responses with cannabis. The human interaction in this case is a factor that is difficult to track, but certainly not impossible.

Cannabis: Where Animal Meets Plant

Let’s take a look at the Thoroughbred filly named Cannabis and a cannabis strain called Jack Frost.

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Above is the lineage of the horse named Cannabis. The pink boxes represent females, the blue boxes represent males, and as you can see, the lineage can be traced back five generations to Book Law in 1924.

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These two visuals (screenshots from the Cannabis Reports database) represent the many generations of specific cannabis strains that went into the creation of Jack Frost. On the left is a color data visual which represents the same information available from the traditional family tree on the right.

Geographic Origins of Jack Frost

Geographic Origins of Jack Frost

Cannabis Reports has additionally linked each of these strains with the breeders and seed companies who originally created them.

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Jack Frost by GoldenSeed

Jack Frost, created by the seed company GoldenSeed, is a genetic recombination of the strains Jack Herer (bred by Sensi Seeds), White Widow (bred by Green House Seed Co.), and Northern Lights #5 (bred by Sensi Seeds).

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Here is a side-by-side comparison of the three primary strains that make up Jack Frost by GoldenSeed.

As you can see, the genetics are mapped all the way back to the original landraces, which in the case of Jack Frost includes Afghani, Thai, Colombian, Acapulco Gold, Mexican, South Indian, and Brazilian.

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All of the lineage information for cannabis is awesome, and Cannabis Reports has made it applicable for anyone. Above is an example of a Cannabis Reports user’s personal genetic recommendation engine.

The first column of numbers is the amount of times this user has reviewed a strain that contains those landraces.

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The numbers to the right of that first column represent this user’s aggregate ratings of the flavors and effects that they personally experienced when they interacted with these genetics.

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Because everyone has a unique endocannabinoid system, it is necessary that the recommendation engine remains personal, and does not calculate reviews from other individuals.

Ultimately, the personal recommendation engine will be tied in with our database of clinical studies examining the medical efficacy of cannabis. There are nearly 600 studies all organized by the conditions that these studies were aiming to treat.

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The Cannabis Reports Medical Studies Database

Cory Wray’s article presents an apt comparison between the Thoroughbred industry and the cannabis cultivation industry.

Horse racing has been keeping lineage records for many years, and the relative newness of cannabis hybridization gives technology the opportunity to keep pace with the thousands of strains now available throughout the world.

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Register for a Cannabis Reports account to start building your personal genetic profile. Signing up for a Cannabis Reports account is completely free, and there are no advertisements or trackers monitoring users anywhere within our platform.

For the most up to date info on Cannabis Reports, follow us on Twitter, and like us on our Facebook page.

Survey Points to a Substantial Decrease in Cannabis Use Disorders Among Adolescents

A recent article published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry concluded that survey data between 2002 and 2013 shows a decline in cannabis use disorders among the American youth population.

The article, published by Richard Gruzca et al., analyzed data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which included 216,852 adolescents aged 12 through 17. The survey covered subjects from all 50 states and calculated the average annual change in prevalence of cannabis use disorders.[1]

Richard A. Gruzca, PhD

Richard A. Gruzca, PhD

According to the research, which was conducted following grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), general cannabis usage and usage disorders among adolescents both dropped substantially between 2002 and 2013.

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Those opposed to cannabis legalization have long claimed that medical and recreational cannabis laws would heighten availability, leading to increased youth exposure and irreparable harm to the adolescent community. According to the data, the opposite has happened during the medical cannabis era.

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Between 2002 and 2013, there was a 9.8% decrease in cannabis usage among youths aged 12 to 17. The number of adolescents who had problems directly related to cannabis declined by 24% during that same time.

Christian J. Hopfer, MD

Christian J. Hopfer, MD

Dr. Christian Hopfer of the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine sees these results as part of something bigger. For Dr. Hopfer, cannabis use among adolescents is incredibly complex, and these reductions in usage and abuse patterns may be due to an overall decline in conduct issues among youths.[2]

Dr. Hopfer is careful to iterate that the results from Gruzca et al. do not provide concrete evidence that cannabis legalization for recreational purposes is harmless on adolescents:

“The relation between the quasi or full legalization of marijuana for medical or recreational purposes for adults and adolescent marijuana use is complex; however, the article by Grucza et al. examines time trends primarily during marijuana medical legalization and cannot be used to infer the effects of adult recreational legalization.”

As in generally the case when it comes to cannabis, more research is necessary for the scientific community to develop a firm grasp on behavioral and usage trends among youths exposed to cannabis.

For instance, since recreational cannabis laws have been instituted, surveys have shown that adult cannabis use has increased from 4.1% and 9.5%, with adult use disorders increasing from 1.5% to 2.9%. This is surprising considering the data regarding adolescent cannabis use shows a separate trend.

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As you can see in the chart above, cannabis use disorders have remained generally stable among those adolescents without comorbid conduct patterns (white box).

The fact that cannabis use disorders (black box) have substantially decreased among those youths with comorbid conduct issues does deserve further investigation, particularly as states begin to legalize adult cannabis use for recreational purposes.

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Cannabis Reports encourages the next step of research, and is pleased to see grants from federal agencies such as NIDA being used for unbiased cannabis research.

For the most up to date info on Cannabis Reports, follow us on Twitter, and like us on our Facebook page.

[1] Grucza RA, Agrawal A, Krauss MJ, et al. Declining prevalence of marijuana use disorders among adolescents in the United States, 2002 to 2013. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2016;55:487-494. DOI: 10.1016/j.jaac.2016.04.002
[2] Hopfer C. Declining Rates of Adolescent Marijuana Use Disorders During the Past Decade May Be Due to Declining Conduct Problems. J AM Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 2016; 55:439-440. DOI: 10.1016/j.jaac.2016.03.013

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