by Scarlet Palmer on 29/11/2017 | Cultural

Cannabis in Space – Part 1

Cannabis in Space Space has fascinated humanity since we could first look upwards, and it’s only natural that we would want to get up there and see what was going on. Add cannabis to this fascination, and the questions that arise are potentially endless. In part one of this article, we explore space, cannabis, and space cannabis!


The countdown to the launch of this article began when we received an excited email from a company called Herban Planet informing us that they had made history by launching cannabis into space. One of their subsidiaries, together with the brilliant folks from Sent Into Space, had successfully sent nearly half a kilo of cannabis buds 35km above the planet’s surface. Why would they do this? Well, the name of the subsidiary in question is ‘Space Weed Bro’, which more or less answers the question. Their “space weed” is exclusively for sale at an Arizona, US dispensary. The Space Weed Bro website says all of it has made “a trip to zero gravity space, guaranteeing an ultra-premium product that has reached for the stars”.

Does this mean that the “ultra-premium” nature of the buds is linked to the fact that they’ve been into zero-gravity space? Or is it their “reaching for the stars” that is guaranteed by their astronomical journey? Presumably, just like with human astronauts, the best specimens would be chosen.  But would sending cannabis into space have any effect on it? Does 35km even count as “in space”? What is “zero gravity space”? What else have Sent Into Space sent into space? And has this space weed boldly gone where no bud had gone before, or has other cannabis been in space? The mission to answer these questions had begun!

When it comes to cannabis, how high is space?

According to the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), space begins 100km from Earth. The federation was set up in 1905 to keep track of “the sport of flying” and has since expanded to govern records for all kinds of sky-related activities, including spaceflight. JAXA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, currently holds the altitude record for a balloon without a crew, which is 53 km. Even this is only halfway to the Kármán Line, as the 100km point is known.

By FAI standards, at 322km the International Space Station is definitely considered to be in space. If the famous photo of Commander Chris Hadfield holding a large bag of “space weed” was real rather than photoshopped, this would definitely be the furthest that cannabis has ever been into space. Sadly, it’s a hoax. The cheerful astronaut is holding a bag of Easter eggs that he’s about to hide on board the space station. If there has been cannabis on the ISS, everyone is keeping very quiet about it (in space, no-one can hear you cough).

A photomontage of two similar pictures side by side, one showing Commander Hadfield in the international space station, a bag full of cannabis floating in front of him, next to the same picture showing a bag full of Easter Eggs in place of cannabis, framed in a screenshot of a tweet that reads “Don’t tell my crew, but I brought them Easter Eggs :)”
Commander Chris Hadfield with (left) a photoshopped bag of “space weed” and (right) a real bag of Easter eggs

 

However, 35 km is considered ‘near space’ (if you ever wondered what the opposite of ‘outer space’ is, now you know). It’s in the upper stratosphere, which is pretty impressive. Especially considering that the balloon used by Jaxa was 60m across, and the Space Weed Bro / Sent Into Space one was around 10m across at the point it burst. This explosion, which is obviously what causes the payload – in this case, our favourite herb – to return to earth, is caused by the air at the upper reaches of the stratosphere being 1000 times thinner than it is at sea level. The gas inside the balloon expands rapidly until the balloon succumbs to it. At this point, the cannabis enters free-fall.

Free-falling space cannabis weighs nothing!

Attention, would-be astronaut dealers! In free-fall, cannabis – just like everything else – weighs nothing. As soon as the balloon bursts, the only force acting on its payload is gravity. This is known as free-fall. Free-fall causes the phenomenon of weightlessness in the ISS; in the “Vomit Comet”; on rollercoasters; and even  – for a fraction of a second – if you jump off a table. So you can experience it right here on Earth. Interestingly, there is no such thing as “zero-gravity space”; as you move away from Earth, the gravity continues to decrease, but it never gets to zero. This is actually good news for our space weed, bro. If it was genuinely in “zero-gravity space”, once the balloon popped, it would just float around randomly instead of returning to Earth. Plus, the gravitational pull of other objects would begin to take effect. The gravitational pull of the moon is enough to cause tides on Earth, so obviously it is able to affect objects closer to it.  By the time our space weed escaped any significant gravitational pull of Earth, it would be subject to the gravity of another celestial body.

An infographic showing part of the Earth at the bottom, with several layers of different shades of blue on top of it. From bottom to top, layers read: Troposphere, Stratosphere, Mesosphere, Thermosphere, Exosphere. Each layer has an item in it: The Earth a rough design of countries, buildings, and trees, the Stratosphere a plane, the Mesosphere stars, the Thermosphere a satellite, the Exosphere an astronaut.
The different layers of the Earth’s atmosphere

First cannabis in space?

Although Space Weed Bro is, by far, the most professional launch of cannabis into space that has come to light, it’s actually not the first. That credit goes to – as far as we can discover – these people, who seem to be representing SeedHub, a directory of seed companies in the US. The url given in the YouTube description leads to a completely blank page. However, there is no doubt that they did manage to send not just cannabis buds in the form of a joint, but also seeds and a living plant into space! According to their video, they managed to get almost 29km high before their balloon exploded. If 32km is near space, then 29km is, at the very least, near near space. This charmingly amateur launch took place on June 1st, 2013. If anyone has managed to send cannabis into space before this date, or if you know about it, please let us know in the comments below!

So what does happen to cannabis in space?

In addition to Space Weed Bro, the team from Sent Into Space sent a joint into space for Viceland TV to celebrate ‘Weed Week’ in April 2017. It reached 32.4km! Sent Into Space really know what they are doing; this interview with co-founder Dr. Chris Rose, Ph.D. makes that very clear. Their area of expertise is space, rather than cannabis, but Dr. Rose’s excitement at finding out what happens to cannabis that has been into near space is palpable. At this time the results of his experiments are not available, which is why this is a two part article. Keep your eyes on the Sensi Seeds skies for part two, where we will explore the effects of space flight on cannabis, whether or not cannabis could grow in space, what might happen to you if you consumed it in orbit, and many more fascinating questions

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