Over the last month, everyone has been so captivated by the lead-up to cannabis legalization in Canada that they might have missed some of the small milestones—such as the first batch of extraterrestrial space! Well, it won’t actually happen until 2019 but the bioengineering company Space Tango announced early October that they will be conducting plant experiments with hemp on NASA’s International Space Station (ISS).
Space Tango, which specializes in research and manufacturing microgravity climates, already has experience working on research projects with the ISS. This latest endeavour seeks to deepen our understanding of how hemp (a variety of cannabis sativa) adapts to its environment, and hopefully discover news traits, characteristics, and applications for the plant. Gravity is a constant force that all plants are adapted for, so there is much to learn from how plants respond to its absence. Dr. Joe Chappell, who is a member of the Space Tango Science Advisory Team, explained, ”When plants are ‘stressed’, they pull from a genetic reservoir to produce compounds that allow them to adapt and survive.” These compounds will include the many cannabinoids in the plant—such as cannabidiol (CBD).
Recent and ongoing legal reforms and changing attitudes on cannabis has expanded the possibilities for scientific exploration. Throughout human history, examples abound of different species evolving alongside of us and adapting to our needs (including corn, cattle, and cannabis itself). The momentum to expand our scientific understanding of cannabis will not only add to its already impressive list of applications, but also, it will give us a glimpse into the ways that cannabis might evolve with us, post-prohibition.