Raphael Mechoulam is the 82-year-old cannabis science pioneer who was recently profiled by the Monterey Herald. The award-winning professor of Medicinal Chemistry and Natural Products still teaches at and conducts research through the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His claim to fame in the cannabis world is monumental, including being among the first to conduct research on cannabinoids like THC and CBD:
In 1964, he was the first person to synthesize THC, tetrahydrocannabinol, the principal active ingredient in weed. That leap is what has enabled the scientific study of cannabis.Before him it was all myths and smoke.
Mechoulam is almost universally referred to as the father of research on cannabinoids. (But no, he has never partaken in the stuff, he says.)
In fact, CNN’s Sanjay Gupta spent a few days in Mechoulam’s lab while researching what became his very public about-face this month on the usefulness of medical marijuana.
A tireless advocate for cannabis research, Mechoulam has had to fight every step of the way to de-mystify the plant, facing regulators and constant red tape for over fifty years. He continues to push for the standardization and science-backed medical use of cannabis:
Mechoulam is still fighting. He recently helped save Israel’s groundbreaking medical cannabis program from yet another assault by Health Ministry bureaucrats, who tried in late June to limit the forms and varieties of medical cannabis available at legal clinics.Among other things, the ministry threatened (but failed) to ban Avidekel, a locally developed strain of cannabis containing less than 1 percent THC, the element that gets you high, and 16 percent CBD, a palliative cannabinoid that has no side effects. In other words, it doesn’t get you high.
An experiment he supervised 15 years ago at Jerusalem’s Sha’arey Tzedek Hospital had the remarkable result of diminishing the side effects of chemotherapy on “every single child” who was given TCH in drops, under the tongue. “The nausea and vomiting simply stopped. And when the chemo ended, we stopped the treatment,” he recalls.
Despte the legal hassles, Professor Mechoulam could not name any health care professional in Israel who opposed the use of cannabis:
Mechoulam is looking ahead. “Governments,” he says, “should set aside the recreational aspects and find a way to allow scientific research to advance.”
Read the fascinating full profile of Raphael Mechoulam at the Monterey Herald, or visit Professor Mechoulam’s page at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem to learn more about one of Israel’s most prominent scientists.