A new way to produce THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids are likely coming to the cannabis industry in a big waysoon. Biosynethetic cannabis is being developed by several well-funded laboratories in the US and Canada.

Biosynthetic cannabinoids differs greatly from the existing lab-made synthetic THC in prescription pills like Marinol or Cesamet in that it’s grown in yeast instead of chemically composed, and differs even more greatly from street “synthetic weed” Spice or K2 in that it isn’t a nasty combination of junk chemicals and incense that will do some serious damage to your brain.

This new product is made by altering the genes of yeast to grow all of the cannabinoids and terpenes of the cannabis plant in a potentially more pure form than is found in the cannabis flower itself.

Among the leading developers of biosynthetic cannabis are Librede, a company which recently received a $221,000 government grant for its research, and CBC Technologies, a Florida company which has raised $7 million in investments for its weedy yeast.

Librede’s co-founder and CEO, Dr. Jason Poulos explained to Business Wire the appeal of yeast-grown cannabinoids. “There is very little land, water and power use; no fertilizers or pesticides; and production is done under highly controlled/sterile conditions,” he said. “This creates a better product in terms of yield, purity and consistency at 10% of the cost. The potential for our technology is enormous.”

“We aim to fully unlock the pharmaceutical potential of the cannabis plant,” elaborated Librede’s Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Anthony Farina.

The impact of cannabis forms which require fewer resources to get purer end products could be massive, particularly on the worlds of medicine, extracts, and edibles. “This is something that could literally change the lives of millions of people,” Kevin Chen, chief executive of another company Hyasynth Bio developing similar science, told the New York Times last fall.

But we’re not quite there yet. Though these companies have made major breakthroughs in their research, none have delivered on the full potential of the discovery. Hyasynth Bio is waiting on approval from the Canadian government to genetically engineer their own THC yeast. And Dr. Poulos of Librede told New Cannabis Adventures that a commercial scale operation isn’t likely to begin until 2020.

Biochemists may have to fit up to twelve new genes into their yeast in order to get the product they want, according to the Times. An objective that’s easier said than done. And there will probably be a weed-beer hybrid grown from the yeast, but they haven’t got that yet. “People keep asking about it,” Mr. Chen said. “But there’s bigger potential there than just making a beer.”


Photo via Wikimedia Commons.