The last decade has been a game-changer for the legal weed industry, with numerous states legalizing the consumption of marijuana for recreational and medicinal uses.
Bringing these products to the mass market has involved numerous scientific breakthroughs. Instead of the minimal processing of the plant, growers are now creating oils for vaping, capsules, edible gummies, and more. As we move forward into a new era of marijuana consumption, it will be interesting to see how technological breakthroughs change the way we get high. Here are a few projects in development that could radically reshape the cannabis industry.
The Cannabis sativa plant is a wonder of nature, a factory for brain-altering chemicals unlike any the world has ever seen. But there is a tremendous amount of variance between strains of the plant, with each grow resulting in a different balance of THC, CBD, and other elements. That leads to a robust market of products, but a hard one to regulate. Modern genomics might be the key to unlocking the plant’s ultimate potential. Several leading cannabis growers are engaging in efforts to sequence the Cannabis sativa’s DNA, assembling a clear blueprint for how the plant generates the panoply of chemicals within.
One Colorado-based company claims to have developed a method to use CRISPR gene editing to grow plants with no THC or CBD at all. These customized breeds could also carry different flavors or be easier to grow. In addition, they are discovering enzymes within the plant that produce even rarer cannabinoids, including CBC, which is thought to have powerful anti-inflammatory effects. One end goal is to extract the genes that produce these chemicals and implant them in yeast or bacteria, allowing for industrial production without growing a single plant.
One of the primary issues with growing marijuana is that the plants have a voracious appetite for wide-spectrum light. In tropical climates, the sun provides everything that Cannabis sativa needs, but large-scale indoor grow operations rely on high-intensity discharge bulbs, which are expensive and consume a ton of electricity.
LED technology, which has revolutionized the home lighting market in the last decade, is poised to do the same for cannabis growers. NASA has experimented with using LED lights for plant growth in space, and many marijuana growers have already transitioned.
Newer bulbs are able to emit a wideband light spectrum, as opposed to earlier models that only covered the red or blue frequencies. Manufacturers have also introduced directional lamps that more efficiently point light rays at the growing plants.
LEDs also produce much less heat than other bulbs, which allows growers to save on temperature control and ducting. We can expect the cost of LED grow light setups to drop dramatically over the next few years, mirroring what has happened with consumer bulbs.