A biotech company is set to send cannabis to the International Space Station in an effort to learn more about how the plant thrives in outer space.
Well, they aren't sending the cannabis you might be thinking of. They won't be sending the plant Cannabis sativa, rather, they're sending cell cultures of hemp, which is a variety of cannabis that has very little THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). Hemp and coffee plants will be brought on board the space station during the next SpaceX mission in March 2020.
"This is one of the first times anyone is researching the effects of microgravity and spaceflight on hemp and coffee cell cultures," Jonathan Vaught, CEO of Front Range Biosciences said in a statement provided to Newsweek. "There is science to support the theory that plants in space experience mutations. This is an opportunity to see whether those mutations hold up once brought back to earth and if there are new commercial applications."
Front Range Biosciences is partnering with SpaceCells USA Inc. and BioServe Space Technologies at the University of Colorado, Boulder to learn if space, specifically its zero gravity, can play any role in the mutation or genetic alteration of the hemp or coffee.
“These are big ideas we’re pursuing and there’s a massive opportunity to bring to market new chemotypes, as well as plants that can better adapt to drought and cold conditions,” Peter McCullagh, CEO of SpaceCells, told Rolling Stone. “We expect to prove through these and other missions that we can adapt the food supply to climate change.”
Some Twitter users started to ask the right questions when the news dropped: