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Father of cannabis research Raphael Mechoulam dies at 92

Father Of Cannabis Research Raphael Mechoulam Dies At 92

Professor Raphael Mechoulam, known as the father of cannabis research, has died at the age of 92. Known as the father of cannabis research, Mechoulam passed away on March 9, 2023.

The scientist, who was born in Bulgaria, will be remembered for all of his work in the field of medical cannabis. In the 1960s, Mechoulam and his group of researchers in Israel started exploring cannabinoids. His team was the first to isolate the psychotropic component of cannabis, delta-9 THC.

“I would like to see my colleagues forge ahead with their investigations, advancing even further the acceptance and integration of cannabinoids in traditional medicine,” Mechoulam said.

The Story of Raphael Mechoulam

In 1930, Raphael Mechoulam was born in Sofia, Bulgaria, as the son of a physician and hospital director and a rich Jewish mother. His father was imprisoned in a concentration camp by the Nazis. When the Nazi’s gained control of sections of Bulgaria, he and his family immigrated to Israel in 1949, by which time Mechoulam had already received a degree in chemical engineering.

Mechoulam earned his master’s degree in biochemistry from Hebrew University, and afterwards he wrote a thesis on the chemistry of steroids to get his PhD at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot. After completing a postdoctoral fellowship at New York’s Rockefeller Institute, he returned to Israel to take up positions as an Associate Professor in 1972 and Professor of Medicinal Chemistry in 1975 at Israel’s The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

He published over 450 scientific articles and more than 25 academic awards were put forward for Mechoulam. He was awarded over a dozen times for his efforts in the fields of Medicinal Chemistry, Natural Products.

Raphael Mechoulam’s Study of Cannabis

Professor Raphael Mechoulam, an organic chemist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, studied cannabis back in the 1960s. At the time, cannabis was thought to have no medical benefits.  Still, it interested Mechoulam so much that he spent his whole academic career studying it and became a leading expert on medical marijuana as a result.

In 1963, he and his research collaborators were the first to identify the structure of cannabidiol (CBD), a crucial component of cannabis, and a year later they identified the structure of THC (delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the most psychotropic component of cannabis.

Asher Cohen, the president of HU, said that Prof. Mechoulam was responsible for most of what people and scientists know about cannabis. Cohen says,  “He paved the way for groundbreaking studies and initiated scientific cooperation between researchers around the world.”

“I have spent most of my life decoding the mysteries to be found within this incredible plant,” said Mechoulam. In 2017, he started the Hebrew University Multidisciplinary Center for Cannabinoid Research.

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