‘Father of Cannabis’ Raphael Mechoulam Passes Away

The man often referred to as the “Father of Cannabis” has died at the age of 93.

Raphael Mechoulam was an Israeli organic chemist and professor of medicinal chemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel. Mechoulam became famous for his research work (together with Y. Gaoni) in the isolation, structure elucidation, and total synthesis of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It is the main active principle of cannabis.

Mechoulam was also able to isolate and identify the endogenous cannabinoid anandamide from the brain.

“Morphine had been isolated from opium in the 19th century, early 19th century,” Mechoulam told CNN in an interview in 2014. “Cocaine had been isolated from coca leaves [in the] mid-19th century. And here we were, mid-20th century, and yet the chemistry of cannabis was not known. So it looked like [an] interesting project.”

According to a report published by the National Library of Medicine, Mechoulam and his collaborators first reported the isolation of delta-9-THC in 1963. They also isolated and studied several other cannabinoids, including:

  • Cannabidiol (CBD)
  • Cannabigerol (CBG)
  • Cannabichromene (CBC)
  • Some cannabinoid carboxylic acids

“These are achievements that, for example, greatly facilitated the determination of the pharmacological actions of cannabis and its phytocannabinoids,” the report noted.

Mechoulam’s team’s research also led to the discovery of cannabinoid receptors in mammals

“The evidence obtained in the late 1980s that mammalian tissues express the CB1 receptor immediately prompted searches for a chemical produced by these tissues that can activate this receptor. The race to discover such an ‘endocannabinoid’ was won by Mechoulam,” The NLM report continued.

“After quite some years, I can say that Raphi still represents an inspiration for young scientists, and a solid reference for more experienced colleagues who are interested in any aspect of cannabinoid and endocannabinoid research,” Mauro Maccarrone, a professor of biochemistry in Rome, wrote in January. “It is indeed rather difficult to summarize the many seminal discoveries and the huge impact that Raphi has had over the last 60 years, in particular on advancing therapeutic drug discovery.”

David (Dedi) Meiri, an associate professor at Technion – Israel Institute of Technology and a colleague of Mechoulam’s said the following in an online statement on March 10: “This is a very sad day for me, for the science community and for the cannabis community. Prof. Raphael Mechoulam or as we called him Raphi, was one of the greatest scientist I ever met and was my teacher and mentor in many aspects. I truly believe he was deserve a Nobel prize!”

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