Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk plans to send cannabis and coffee to space in 2020

Front Range Biosciences will join forces with SpaceCells USA and BioServe Space Technologies to figure out what impact space environments have on plant quality

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

When Elon Musk blazed up a joint during The Joe Rogan Experience live podcast in 2018, he was criticized by top NASA officials. However, the 48-year-old Tesla CEO has brushed off negative comments and is preparing to send a whole cargo filled with the green stuff to outer space.

Musk and his team at SpaceX – which he also assumes the role of Chief Executive Officer for – are launching a cannabis space trial. They will use their vehicles to send hemp and coffee to the International Space Station (ISS); the cargo will also contain products included in the station’s usual payload.

Hemp is a member of the Cannabis Sativa L. family. Unlike ‘marijuana’ – which is renowned for making consumers experience feelings of psychoactivity due to its high THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) content – hemp grows with no more than 0.3 percent THC. The non-psychotropic hemp plant is often used for the creation of textiles, biofuel, paper, food and cosmetic products.

The cultivation and production of hemp was legalized at the federal level following the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill. Cannabis that exceeds the hemp THC threshold is illegal at the federal level; albeit legal in 33 U.S. states for medical purposes and 11 states for recreational purposes.

Cannabis space trial will determine if environment causes genetic plant mutation

Based on recent reports about the ISS and SpaceX’s cannabis cargo agreement, Front Range Biosciences will join forces with SpaceCells USA and BioServe Space Technologies to figure out what impact space environments have on plant quality. The team will utilize advanced technologies to focus on potential genetic mutations that may occur when hemp cell cultures are left to grow in space. 

Scientists believe that the results of their cannabis space trial could enhance knowledge of space agriculture. The main aim of the study is to better understand how hemp can be used to develop widespread plant-based products for use in outer space.

“This is one of the first times anyone is researching the effects of microgravity and spaceflight on hemp and coffee cell cultures,” said the co-founder and CEO of Front Range Biosciences, Dr. Jonathan Vaught. “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.”

The hemp plants will be closely inspected once they return to Planet Earth; analysis will, hopefully, conclude whether or not hemp can produce quality yields in brutal environments. With the pressing concern of global climate change, ISS and SpaceX’s cannabis cargo agreement will provide insights into prospective plants that can survive in ever-evolving atmospheres.

More trials set to commence inside SpaceX vehicles, if cannabis space trial is successful

As per the details of ISS and SpaceX’s cannabis cargo agreement, plants must spend 30 days in space. In total, 480 plant cultures will be couriered between Earth and outer space; stored inside SpaceX vehicles. During the time spent in orbit, scientists will be carrying out plant-based trials aboard Musk’s vehicles. Upon returning to Earth, each plant will be carefully examined. 

Musk was ranked 21st on Forbes’ list of The World’s Most Powerful People back in December 2016. Boasting a net worth of $22.8 billion, he maintains his  title as the 40th-wealthiest person on the planet. 

Hemp and coffee cell samples will be sent via the SpaceX CRS-20 cargo flight, which is scheduled for March 2020.