Retired Astronaut Wants to Grow Cannabinoids in Space

A sci-fi fantasy come true—but astronaut Chris Hadfield says that recreational pot in space is still a “long ways out.”

In the annals of phony viral images, the one of former Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield holding a bag of weed while aboard the International Space Station is right up there. 

The photo made the rounds in 2018, prompting a fact-check from the online watchdog Snopes.

In the original photo that was posted to Hadfield’s Twitter account in 2013, he is seen holding a bag of Easter Eggs. 

The internet being the internet, that same image was manipulated years later and reposted by a Facebook page (ironically named “Pictures in History”), this time with the eggs replaced with ganja. 

“Not only is the image of Chris Hadfield holding a bag of marijuana fake, but it’s unlikely that any similar (but genuine) photographs of astronauts with drug paraphernalia exist, as NASA has been a drug-free workplace since at least the mid-1980s,” Snopes said. 

But the spurious image may have been somewhat prescient. Late last year, Hadfield joined the board of BioHarvest Sciences, a biotech firm involved in medicinal cannabis. 

In an interview with Futurism that was published this week, Hadfield and BioHarvest CEO Ilan Sobel detailed how “space might even be the perfect environment to produce out-of-this-world, medical-grade cannabinoids.”

“We see the potential ability for valuable minor cannabinoids to be grown at significantly higher quantities compared to its growth on Earth,” Sobel told Futurism.

“These unique compositions of full-spectrum cannabis could have significant value in providing more optimized treatment solutions for many palliative diseases where current pharma synthesized compounds are not delivering adequate solutions,” he added.

But Hadfield told Futurism that cannabinoids are only one part of BioHarvest’s cultivation program, and what really drew him to the company “was the scalability of the biotech platform, and how it can solve a lot of the agricultural problems we face in feeding 10 billion people.”

As such, BioHarvest “is focusing its efforts on providing future astronauts—and humans back on the ground—with microgravity-enhanced nutrients, rather than a way to get high,” Futurism reported.

Hadfield joined BioHarvest’s Board of Advisers in December, saying at the time that the company’s “proprietary platform technology has the potential to make a significant impact on the world as well as in bio-space science.”

“The company has built a world-class team of scientists, and I look forward to working with them, with my fellow advisors, to scale BioHarvest’s solution,” Hadfield said in the announcement.

Sobel said at the time that Hadfield’s “unparalleled experience will help marry our plant cellular biology expertise with space science.”

“He is a great addition to our advisory board at this phase of our growth, and he’ll help us in our drive to be a global biotech leader,” Sobel said.

As for that infamous viral image, Hadfield told Futurism that toking in space might not be such a great idea.

“On the space station, if there’s an emergency, you are the fire department,” he said. “You can’t have intoxicated yourself or inebriated yourself or whatever, just because if something goes wrong, then you’ll die.”

He did leave open the possibility, however.

“Once the population gets large enough, once you get to a stable enough situation, people are gonna want, you know, a drink,” Hadfield told Futurism. “People are gonna want some pot.”

When it comes to cannabinoids and space, Hadfield and BioHarvest aren’t exactly going “where no man has gone before.” 

In 2020, the ag biotech company Front Range Biosciences announced that “it will be sending cell cultures of the hemp plant to the International Space Station on a resupply trip,” Rolling Stone reported at the time, adding that the “purpose of the project is to see whether or not these cells develop any genetic mutations in those conditions, and once they return, scientists will analyze their DNA to see if they have changed at all.”

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