The grandfather of cannabis science, Raphael Mechoulam passed away on March 10, 2023. He was 92 years old. Many might not know about Dr. Mechoulam, but his scientific contributions changed cannabis forever. Dr. Mechoulam was a cannabis scientist that many consider the seminal influence on cannabis studies. He helped discover the chemical compound THC, responsible for the high from cannabis. He also developed the CBD to Delta 8 conversion patent that became the driving force behind the Delta 8 industry. It is not a surprise to learn that Dr. Mechoulam is known as “the grandfather of cannabis.”
In memory of Dr. Mechoulam, we want to educate people about his life and contributions to cannabis science. Dr. Mechoulam was not only an esteemed cannabis scientist, but he also led a long, inspired life. Without further delay, here is our tribute to Dr. Raphael Mechoulam.
Raphael Mechoulam was born to a Jewish family in Sofia, Bulgaria, in 1930. His father was a head physician at a hospital and inspired Mechoulam’s interest in science. He and his family enjoyed a privileged life until Nazi Germany occupied Bulgaria in the 1940s. Fearful of the Nazi’s antisemitic laws, the family moved to the countryside to keep a lower profile. Raphael Mechoulam’s father worked as a village doctor for several years, but near the end of WWII, he was sent to a concentration camp. Thankfully, he survived.
After the War in 1949, the Mechoulams moved to Israel, where Raphael renewed his interest in science. He joined the Israeli military and studied chemistry, mainly insecticide-related scholarship. While in the army, he met a female soldier named Dalia, and they became lifelong partners.
After serving in the military, Raphael Mechoulam continued his education at some incredible institutions, including the Rockefeller Institute. He studied various fields of chemistry, and his Ph.D. dissertation centered around the chemistry of steroids. However, in the early 1960s, Dr. Mechoulam began studying Cannabis Sativa, which would be the focus of his work for the rest of his life.
Dr. Mechoulam’s first essential contribution to the study of cannabis was the isolation of THC, the active chemical compound in cannabis. When Dr. Mechoulam wanted to study cannabis, he needed to get his hands on the plant. So, he went to the police department, where there were significant amounts of confiscated hashish, who gave him hashish for study. When riding back to the University, he carried five kilos of hashish, and many passengers exclaimed about the odd smell. Afterward, Dr. Mechoulam learned he needed a permit to study hashish, meaning he took hashish from the police and smuggled it away. Therefore, Dr. Mechoulam may be the only person ever to steal cannabis from the police! Soon afterward, he obtained an official permit and began studying cannabis.
Dr. Mechoulam’s first step was to isolate the active compound in cannabis; in layperson’s terms, the thing in marijuana that gets you high. After dissolving cannabis in a liquid, they separated the compounds in cannabis, which led to the discovery of THC, also known as Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol. To ensure he discovered the active chemical, he had to test it. He figured the best way to test it was at a party.
He gathered ten of his best, consenting, friends and invited them to a party at his apartment. His wife Dalia baked a delicious cake, and he added isolated THC to five pieces. After giving his friends the cake, he witnessed a dramatic change in behavior in five friends. Dr. Mechoulam knew he had discovered the active compound in cannabis, the first cannabinoid, THC.
Clinical Studies On Epilepsy
After becoming the world leader in cannabis studies, Dr. Mechoulam created a scientific team to study cannabis and THC. To conduct his first clinical trials, he turned to ancient literature. Cannabis use was prevalent in the ancient Middle East and Asia, and these cultures wrote about their experiences with cannabis. One recorded story discussed how a Middle Eastern aristocrat suffered from epilepsy and had debilitating seizures. A doctor administered cannabis daily, which cured the aristocrat’s seizures. It was settled, the first clinical trial would be with epileptic patients.
They conducted the study in Brazil. Dr. Mechoulam sent a large portion of THC to Brazilian doctors who wished to administer it to sick patients. These patients suffered from epileptic seizures that would not stop no matter what drugs they took. These doctors gave large doses of THC daily to these patients. Every patient stopped having seizures. The incredible results of the study prompted Dr. Mechoulam to search for a new clinical trial. His subsequent trial would center around cancer patients.
Clinical Studies On Cancer
Many cancer patients must undergo chemotherapy and take drugs with horrible side effects to curb the disease. Cancer treatments can cause pain, nausea, and countless other conditions. Dr. Mechoulam wanted to focus on patients that felt this pain most acutely, children.
Cannabis and children is a touchy subject, but Dr. Mechoulam wanted to help the least fortunate and hated the thought of children suffering. He conducted a double-blind study, meaning the doctor and patients would be unaware if they were taking THC or a placebo. The doctor contacted Mechoulam after a few days and said he could no longer continue the double-blind study. The reason why? He knew which children were taking the THC because they no longer complained about nausea. Therefore, he asked Dr. Mechoulam if he could give every child THC. Mechoulam enthusiastically agreed and watched as every patient no longer experienced nausea. After studying cancer patients and people with epilepsy, Dr. Mechoulam figured that cannabis scholarship across the world would explode as people sought to control the remarkable abilities of cannabis.
Dr. Mechoulam says that after both of these studies, there was nothing but silence from the scientific community. Unfortunately, he would have to wait decades to see others repeat the same studies and rediscover the near-supernatural effects of cannabis.
Dr. Mechoulam lived too great a life to contain within one blog, so make sure to read part two of this blog.