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Israeli biologist and chemist Raphael Mechoulam, considered the father of marijuana studies, a pioneer of cannabis research after having isolated the active principle of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in 1964 and then having discovered the first endogenous cannabinoids, died on Thursday 9 March in Jerusalem at the age of 92. The disappearance, as he reports The Times of Israelwas announced by the American Friends of the Hebrew University, where Mechoulam helped form the Hebrew University’s Multidisciplinary Center for Cannabinoid Research in 2017.

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Medical cannabis, everything you need to know

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In the early 1960s, the Bulgarian-born scientist (he was born in Sofia, Bulgaria, on November 5, 1930 and emigrated with his family to Israel in 1949) Raphael Mechoulam was caught transporting five kilograms of “superb smuggled Lebanese hashish” , as he called it, on a bus from Tel Aviv in Rehovot, Israel. But he wasn’t going to smoke that drug. At the time Mechoulam was a novice researcher eager to explore the science of cannabis, a stigmatized plant whose specific medical properties were not yet known. Over the decades he has become the leading researcher on cannabis, whose discoveries on the psychoactive substance have helped ease its transition out of the counterculture and into the mainstream.

“Most of the human and scientific knowledge about cannabis has been accumulated thanks to Professor Mechoulam – said the president of the Hebrew University, Asher Cohen, in a statement – It paved the way for groundbreaking studies and initiated scientific cooperation between researchers around the world. Mechoulam was a sharp and charismatic pioneer.”

Studies to isolate Thc

As a professor at the Hebrew University School of Pharmacy, Mechoulam and his research team isolated THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis, and cannabidiol, or CBD, an active ingredient in cannabis with a range of medicinal benefits. He also pioneered the study of the body’s cannabinoid system, which produces THC-like chemicals to help regulate appetite, manage pain and keep the immune system running.

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When Mechoulam learned more about cannabis and its effectiveness in relieving the symptoms of cancer, epilepsy and other ailments, he complained that strict drug laws in the United States and other parts of the world stifled research and kept cannabis derivatives off the market. The medical cannabis industry and science “must follow the lines of thought and development of medicine and modern medical paths – he told the ‘New York Times’ in 2017 – Israel has more clinical trials than the United States at the moment, which is ridiculous”.


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