Elon Musk, the creator and chief of SpaceX, was recently criticized for smoking cannabis on Joe Rogan’s podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience. Now Elon’s team will be flying marijuana to the International Space Station (ISS).
SpaceX will be bringing cargo to the ISS on a planned flight in March. Adding on to its regular payload, the cargo will also contain coffee and hemp. According to a report by Newsweek, the Front Range Biosciences is associating with BioServe Space Technologies and SpaceCells USA to determine whether the environment in space and space travel in any way can alter or genetically mutate the plants.
Hemp was removed from the list of Controlled Substances under the Farm Bill passed in December last year. It is a federally legal strain of marijuana that is widely popular and used in a variety of ways ranging from clothes, ropes, skincare, too much more. Hemp has an extremely low concentration of THC, the psychoactive substance found in marijuana plants, which makes it much safer to consume and use as compared to other cannabis genus plants.
THC or tetrahydro cannabinoid is the psychoactive compound responsible for causing hallucinations and creating a feeling of euphoria. It is an addictive chemical that can cause mental health disorders if used for a long time in high potency.
The maximum legal limit for THC is 0.3% per dry weight according to federal regulations. Any product containing more than this will be termed as illegal and may result in a positive drug test.
On a federal level, marijuana is still considered illegal, however, some states have made it legal for medicinal and recreational use. Companies hopped on the CBD bandwagon after the Farm Bill legalized hemp production. CBD or cannabidiol is the non-psychoactive compound present in abundance in hemp plants. It has anti-inflammatory properties and is widely popular to reduce muscle spasms, chronic pain, muscle injuries, and treat other ailments.
Many people have touted CBD for its medicinal benefits. CBD helps in alleviating the symptoms of mental health disorders including stress, insomnia, depression, and it is also efficient in helping with life-threatening diseases such as cancer, epilepsy and Alzheimer’s.
While the stigma around cannabis has significantly reduced over the last year, the US Food and Drug Administration is concerned about the illicit products present in the market. There are many retailers and businesses selling illegal, unauthorized and non-tested CBD products with a higher concentration of THC at throw-away prices. Since the legal and tested products are priced at a much higher price, consumers tend to rely on the black market CBD products which put their safety at risk.
The FDA recently warned 15 companies about illegally marketing their products with medicinal claims that are not backed up by sufficient research. The agency also warned companies whose products did not contain the ingredients as mentioned on their labels. Consumers are highly recommended to only purchase CBD products from legit stores, be it be online or brick-and-mortar shops.
As for SpaceX, bringing hemp and coffee cell to space could reveal some in-depth information and leave a profound impact on the understanding of agriculture. Primarily, scientists want to discover whether space in some ways affects the plants and how the findings could be used in the future for a variety of products. Certain beneficial changes could pave the way for new discoveries in plant-based products.
Similarly, the scientists also want to examine the plants once they return back to the Earth to examine whether they can genetically modify them to grow them in different environments. With this new mission, the researchers hope that they will be able to create new ways to ensure plants sustain in difficult environments as climate change further impacts the world. A trusted plant-based food source could be important at that time.
To achieve these goals and get real insights, the plants will need to be present in the space for 30 days. The scientists are sending about 480 plant cultures into the orbit and will then evaluate them once they return to the planet.
SpaceX will not just act as a courier, bringing the plants to and from space. If the researchers find useful insights, then many more plant-based trials will be conducted in space using SpaceX vehicles to develop hardier plants.