How do you get weed without the weed? By genetically engineering yeast to produce THC, of course.
Once theorized in a stoner magazine column more than a decade ago, a biotech startup working in Ireland is actively trying to transplant the genetic information that codes for both THC and another cannabinoid called CBD into yeast so that new medicinal (and, perhaps recreational) “marijuana” can be grown in a lab—no plants necessary.
“Right now, growing medical marijuana is expensive and it’s heavily regulated as well. It’s slow to grow, you’ve got to go through several different strains before you get a stable blend,” Sarah Choukah, CEO of Hyasynth Bio, told me. “We’re thinking to bypass all this, to make it quick to grow, we can develop pot from technology that could give us customizable blends of yeast.”
That’s right—you can have different strains of THC-producing yeast, just like you do with marijuana. On its website, the team says that “rather than relying on plant strains generated from selective breeding, specifically crafted microbes can be designed within a matter of days.”
Choukah and her cofounder, Kevin Chen, say they aren’t exactly sure what the final form of their product will be, but you won’t smoke it. Most likely, the THC will be delivered via a patch, a topical cream, or in vaporizer or e-cigarette form.