Researchers at UC Berkeley have found a way to produce the main chemicals in marijuana, THC and CBD, from yeast. This is much cheaper and safer for the environment.
UC Berkeley biologists have developed a type of brewer's yeast capable of producing the primary cannabinoids - THC and CBD - as well as new cannabinoids not found in the plant itself.
Fed only on sugar, the yeast is an easy and inexpensive way to produce pure cannabinoids, which are currently expensive to extract from cannabis fruit.
"The benefit to the consumer is the high quality and low cost of producing CBD and THC," - said Jay Keasling, professor of chemistry and bioengineering at the University of Berkeley and a faculty member at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. "This is a safer, more environmentally friendly way to produce cannabinoids."
THC and CBD aren't everything
Tetrahydrocannabinol, is now legal in 10 states and the District of Columbia. THC-containing drugs have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to reduce nausea after chemotherapy and improve appetite in AIDS patients.
Cannabidiol is increasingly used in cosmetics or supplements. They have also been approved as drugs for epilepsy or Parkinson's.
But medical research on the more than 100 other chemicals in marijuana is difficult because the ingredients are found in small amounts, making it difficult to extract them from the plant. Inexpensive, purer sources, such as yeast, could facilitate such research.
He added that there is "the possibility of new therapies based on novel cannabinoids: rare ones that are almost impossible to obtain from the plant or unnatural ones that cannot be obtained from the plant."