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3D Printing Technology Brings the Future to Medical Marijuana

Jan 22, 2018


Three years ago, Leafly tricked us all into believing that they had developed a molecular 3D printer. They claimed that you could print your own flowers, customizing everything from color to flavor to THC content. Alas, back then this was only a well-planned April Fool’s joke. 

But where is 3D printing technology today?

3D printing technology is expected to exceed the billion dollar mark in 2021. Traditionally, a three-dimensional printer melts plastics or porcelains to craft shapes that can be used for any number of things. Dishware, décor, bongs, and vapes can all be made with a 3D printer. But this isn’t where the money is. The boon of this business comes from what the health industry intends to do with it.

For the health industry, molecular 3D printers are, in fact, a true story. Pharmaceutical companies are using 3D printing to synthesize a wide variety of medical products, including organs, prosthetic limbs, even prescription drugs. 3D printing cannot replace actual human organs or body parts, but bioprinting does create what scientists call ‘organoids’ that mimic organ and organ function and greatly reduce the cost and risk of traditional transplant procedures. 

What can this 3D printing technology do for the marijuana industry?

You can’t print your own strain of marijuana, but 3D printing on the molecular level does give the cannabis industry a very remarkable and lucrative business path to pursue. With molecular bioprinting, these 3D printing machines can create customized organic compounds and place them together in new and unique molecular structures. From there, the possibilities are endless. Fighting disease, building new medicine, and creating new products are all at the heart of the health industry’s business plan

For the marijuana industry, molecular 3D printing comes in the form of the MannaBot One, a creation of Manna Molecular Science. This unique 3D printer prints a prescribed amount of organic cannabis extract into one of their transdermal patches. This gives scientists and pharmacists the ability to control the dosage of CBD and THC used in the medicine they produce. Controlling the dosage of cannabis is one of the bigger hurdles the marijuana industry is trying to overcome, and 3D printing provides a way to increase accuracy and precision of these prescriptions.

3D printing technology is so precise that the cannabis industry wishes to use it to speed up the FA approval process. Aprecia Pharmaceuticals uses 3D printers to manufacture their epilepsy medicine. Their ZipDose pills dissolve in liquid and can contain dosages of up to 1000mg. The accuracy of this printing technology earned the drug its FDA approval in 2015, and the FDA is continuing to work with researchers at the industry and university levels to develop more regulations and better guidance for this up-and-coming technology. 

The medicinal opportunities are endless with 3D printing technology. The marijuana industry has only scratched the surface of what is possible with these molecular 3D printers. Ideally, grow warehouses and pharmaceutical labs – even hospitals – could house digital copies of plants and prescriptions that could be printed on demand. As long as the FDA and the health industry continue to work together, this new technology could bring a lot of modern updates to the budding cannabis industry.


[photo credit: Luke Jones]

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