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Dissecting trust and relationships within the industrial hemp sector in the digital era



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Traceability is becoming increasingly vital in agri-business. Timely delivery of accurate information about the process and the product will help meet both regulatory requirements and consumer demand and potentially cultivate trust between businesses. New traceability technologies such as blockchain further claim that businesses could operate in a “trust-less” system in which decentralized consensus and code would replace centralized authority and intermediaries. 2018 marked the year of legalization of recreational marijuana in Canada. While it created substantial economic opportunities for Canada, it also created considerable confusion as the market boundary between industrial hemp and marijuana becomes blurred. This research aims to assess the perception and attitude of the Canadian hemp industry stakeholders towards a comprehensive, industry-wide traceability system, and explores the potential impact of introducing such a traceability system on trust and relationship dynamics within the industry. Twenty-two industry stakeholders were interviewed between February and July 2020. This group of industry stakeholders use the word “trust” and “good relationship” interchangeably. Both take time to develop. There is a significant divergence of opinions when it comes to the interpretation of a “industry-wide traceability” program and very few research participants understand what the blockchain technology entails. The traceability program is deemed to enhance competency trust and to monitor output. While industry stakeholders think that could be critical in supporting the growth of the hemp industry, it will not replace existing human relationships. The success of any system-wide change depends on endorsement from all stakeholders; digital technologies are no exception. However, conventional analysis often focuses on the system itself and overlooks the individual constituents. Technology developers concentrate on the technical characteristics but pay little attention to any interrelationship with interorganizational governance. While this study sketched the complexity of a rapidly evolving hemp industry network, it was able to uncover some of the nuances and potential challenges that will be faced by individual actors in the broader sector as it goes through a series of transformations. It is my hope that my research findings will help support stakeholders in change management and reduce coordination failure during the technology development and implementation stages.



Industrial Hemp, Traceability, Interorganizational governance, Trust, Technology adoption



Master of Public Policy (M.P.P.)


Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy


Public Policy


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