Israeli "Father of Cannabis" Dies.

Liz Filmer
14 Mar 2023

In the early 1960s, a Bulgarian native scientist, Raphael Mechoulam, was apprehended carrying five kilograms of Lebanese hashish on a bus while travelling between Tel Aviv and Rehovot. However, he wasn't planning on smoking the stuff.

Mechoulam was a rookie researcher keen on probing the science behind cannabis, whose distinctive medical properties were unknown. Yet, over the decades, he has become a pioneer in cannabis research—someone whose findings about weed assisted in facilitating its entry into the mainstream medical debate. 

Mechoulam died at 92 in Israel. The "American Friends of the Hebrew University" officially reported the professor's death. This was where Mechoulam assisted in forming "The Hebrew University Multidisciplinary Center for Cannabinoid Research" in 2017.

In the 1960s, Mechoulam and his team began cannabinoid experimentations in Israel, becoming the first to isolate delta-9 THC, the psychoactive element of cannabis. His further achievements include developing and synthesizing several novel cannabinoids with therapeutic potential as pharmaceutical drugs.

Mechoulam paved the way for groundbreaking investigations and prompted a global scientific collaboration between researchers.He was also nominated for over 25 academic honours, including:

The 2004 Heinrich Wieland Prize.
A 2006 honorary doctorate from Complutense University in Madrid.
The 2000 Israel Prize in Exact Sciences, Chemistry.

The original medical cannabis frontiersperson was a founding associate of the International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines. In addition, Mechoulam was elected a member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities in 1994.

He was born in Bulgaria in 1930 and moved to Israel in 1949, where he studied chemistry and obtained a PhD at the Weizmann Institute, Rehovot, in 1958

After attending postdoctoral studies at the Rockefeller Institute in New York (1959–60), Mechoulam was a scientific staff member at the Weizmann Institute from 1960 to 1965. Here he focused on the isolation, structure elucidation and synthesis of the significant active codes of cannabis. Mechoulam transferred to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1972 and became a full professor.

Mechoulam also pioneered the analysis of the body's endocannabinoid system. a system which is known to produce chemicals comparable to THC that may manage pain, control appetite and operate the immune system.

As he learned more about cannabis and its effectiveness in easing symptoms of multiple conditions, he commented that strict drug laws internationally have repressed research and kept the by-products of cannabis off the market.

"Most of the human and scientific knowledge about cannabis was accumulated thanks to Prof. Mechoulam. He paved the way for groundbreaking studies and initiated scientific cooperation between researchers worldwide. Mechoulam was a sharp-minded and charismatic pioneer." Asher Cohen- Hebrew University President 

Liz Filmer