When I get asked about astrobotany and growing plants in space, 1 out of 10 people will eventually say something along these lines.
“Astrobotany? You guys should send weed to space.”
“Astrobotany? Have you guys sent weed to space?”
“Astrobotany? Is that like getting high on plants?”
“Arabidopsis is a weed? So you guys have sent weed to space?”
I appreciate the curiosity surrounding cannabis in space, and up until a week ago, I would have told you that no form of the plant has ever been to space.
However, this week, private company Space Tango has announced that it’s teaming up with two cannabis cultivation companies to use their trademark microgravity research box to grow hemp in space.
So you can all stop asking me if we’re growing cannabis in the upper stratosphere. Because if you ask me now, the answer will be yes.
Just to be clear, hemp and marijuana are not the same thing. They are both members of the Cannabis sativa family, but hemp is grown mostly for industrial purposes, while marijuana is harvested mostly for its psychoactive ingredient THC. Hemp has a very low concentration of THC, which allows it to escape the Schedule I drug classification that its counterpart has.
Hemp does produce the non psychoactive compound CBD, which has garnered enormous interest as therapeutic medicine. This is the real scientific interest of the companies sponsoring this endeavor. It will be fascinating to see how hemp reacts in a microgravity environment. The unique environment of spaceflight may reveal genetic secrets that could pave the way for more effective medicine or hemp cultivation.
So now one type of cannabis will be added to our list of plants grown in space– but we’ll be holding off on marijuana.
Let’s grow hemp in space.