Israeli chemist Dr. Raphael Mechoulam has contributed significantly to our understanding of the science behind cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system as we know it today. He was born an unlikely cannabisapostle in Sofia, Bulgaria on November 5, 1930. Mechoulam was raised in an affluent Jewish family, however his family was eventually pushed out of their hometown due to rampant anti-semitism. Mechoulam’s father survived a Nazi concentration camp, before relocating the entire family to Israel in 1949.
Driven By Curiosity and Connections
After switching his studies from chemical engineering to chemistry, Mechoulam’s foray into cannabis science was a natural extension of his innate curiosities and obsession with research. Mechoulam began studying the plant in 1964 as a young professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He learned that researchers had isolated morphine from opium over 150 years ago, and cocaine from coca leaves a century prior, but he believed no one had yet tried to understand cannabis and its psychoactive and non-psychoactive ingredients. (In truth, American scientist Roger Adams, was vital in isolating the chemical compounds of cannabis back in the forties, but more on him later).
The 88-year-old scientist told Culture magazine he had unknowingly broken the law when the police gave him hashish to use in his first experiments, he legit took the bus down to a local police station to pick up a package of hash from a contact there, but later received samples from Israel’s Ministry of Health.
“I have never used [marijuana],” he told the publication.“As I did research and we had an official supply of cannabis, obviously if we had used it for non-scientific reasons if people had come to know about it that would have stopped our work. Basically, neither I nor my students were interested.”
“The Medicinal Potential of Cannabis is Huge”
Mechoulam’s total synthesis of cannabinoids eventually led him to the discovery of the human body’s endocannabinoid system. What Mechoulam found is that cannabinoids bind to receptors in different areas of the brain and vital organs. This relationship triggers various reactions that can cause a multitude of effects ranging from anti-inflammatory benefits to paranoia.
Mechoulam has long promoted the therapeutic benefits of non-psychoactive cannabidiol (CBD) for years. He performed a small clinical study in 1980 on the compound’s effects in eight epileptic patients. Half of the participants remained nearly seizure-free throughout the CBD trial period, and three patients demonstrated notable improvement.
In an interview with Fundacion-Canna, the doctor states, “The medicinal potential of cannabis is huge, and we should not miss out. I believe that this potential is no longer being ignored, and that’s why I’m satisfied with the recent developments of medical cannabis policies…. Science will continue to accumulate data, and we will know more. “
From his lips to legalization’s ears, we hope that a great deal of clinical trials will kick off as legalization marches across the world.