In the 1960’s at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem college professor, Raphael Mechoulam conducted research and discovered the most famous cannabis compounds and named them THC and CBD. It was the first step in showing us all the importance of cannabis and it’s value as a medicine. The 86 year old ‘father of cannabis research” has never smoked or used marijuana in any form himself, noting that as a researcher he could not use cannabis for non-scientific reasons so he will not jeopardize the work he was doing.
In those days cannabis was hard to get, so he had to use his contacts to get the plant semi-illegally. He used Lebanon hashish for his groundbreaking discovery of THC. The person who helped him was a high ranking police personnel who had been serving in the army together with the administrative head of his institute. Mechoulam went to the police station and came back with 5 kilos of hashish. It was against the law of course, and they got in trouble with the Ministry of Health, so he went to apologize and got permission to use hashish for his research. Mechoulam consults with the Ministry of Health still to this day, promoting the general medical cannabis program.
He conducted research in the 1980’s regarding cannabis and epilepsy, he and his team gave 300 milligrams of cannabidiol(CBD), the non-psychoactive part of the plant, to eight epileptic patients and saw that after four months half of them stopped having seizures, with others having fewer seizures each day. Mechoulam was frustrated as no one cared or did anything with this groundbreaking discovery, letting patients who have epilepsy go another 30 years without being able to use the cannabis as a medicine.
Why did Mechoulam pick cannabis as his subject as he wasn’t interested in cannabis use himself? Well, when he was 34, he needed to choose a subject for his research, something unique that not many people were doing. He was reading articles in different languages to see if there were some undiscovered problems he could conduct research on. He saw that there wasn’t much information about the chemistry of the marijuana plant, which he found surprising. There was research about the coca leaf and opium but nothing about cannabis. 5 kilos of hashish later the study was on
In 1992 Mechoulam discovered another essential compound in our brain called anandamide that together with CB1 took him further to discover the endocannabinoid system in our bodies and how it all responds to the various compounds found in cannabis.
Raphael is also the one who created the term “entourage effect.” Believing that all of the components in cannabis are important as they might work in synergy together to give enhanced effects compared to just a single compound of the plant.
50 years later, Raphael is still living in Jerusalem and is still working on new discoveries around cannabis, and it’s interaction with the human body.