Raphael Mechoulam, an Israeli scientist whose work advanced knowledge of marijuana and the chemical elements responsible for the drug’s distinct high, has passed away. The 92-year-old Mechoulam passed away in Jerusalem last month. One of Mechoulam’s major contributions to cannabis studies was the discovery of the psychoactive component of the marijuana plant: THC. He was given the moniker “Father of Marijuana Research” for his contributions.
Asher Cohen, president of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, described Mechoulam as a charismatic and brilliant pioneer. Mechoulam was a longtime faculty member at the university.
“Prof. Mechoulam is responsible for amassing the majority of scientific and human cannabis knowledge. He laid the foundation for ground-breaking research and instigated international scientific collaboration,” said Cohen. “The academic community, as well as the university, is in mourning today.”
Mechoulam was born in Bulgaria in 1930, and then moved to Israel in 1949 where he started studying chemistry. When Mechoulam joined the cannabis research field in the 1960s, cocaine and morphine had long been isolated from coca and opium, the plants in which the elements occur naturally. But it was not the same case for cannabis, which inhibited academic research on the drug in pharmacology or chemistry labs.
As a result, in 1962, Mechoulam and his research group at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, where they were working at the time, began to concentrate on the drug just as it was about to experience a worldwide upsurge in popularity.
Throughout Mechoulam’s career, cannabis gained both popularity and notoriety as arguments over the drug’s safety grew. In 1970, the drug was classified as a controlled substance in the United States.
Mechoulam worked to synthesize and isolate other elements found in the cannabis plant as well as demonstrate its potential for use in medicine, including the treatment of autoimmune disorders and epilepsy. His work contributed to demonstrating that, despite the debate surrounding its use in the latter half of the 20th century, people have been using marijuana for hundreds of years. For example, he and his group conducted research on the ashes of a young woman who had passed away giving birth in a fourth-century Roman tomb, and they then published their findings in the “Nature” journal in 1993.
“They undoubtedly gave her something to numb the pain or treat the apparent hemorrhage that she was experiencing. We suspected it might be marijuana,” he said in an interview with NPR that year. His suspicions turned out to be accurate, and an analysis produced the first physical proof of cannabis use in the historic Middle East.
The death of this pioneering scientist has robbed the world of a brilliant thinker upon whose work present-day marijuana companies and even ancillary ones such as Advanced Container Technologies Inc. (OTC: ACTX) are benefiting directly or indirectly.
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