Rafael Mechoulam: 5 Most Influential People in Cannabis

Rafael Mechoulam: Cannabis Medical Science

Rafael Mechoulam is one of the most influential, yet least publicized, figures in the contemporary cannabis space. Yet, his significance in the industry is the result of his profound contributions to the science surrounding medical marijuana. As a professor of Medicinal Chemistry at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Mechoulam is famous for the discovery and isolation of cannabinoid compounds from both the marijuana plant and the human body. Beginning his research into the medical benefits of cannabis in the mid-twentieth century, Mechoulam set forth to establish a legitimate understanding of the herb’s chemical compositions in an era steeped with prohibition and naïveté. To put this notion in context, some of his most notable scientific discoveries occurred in the midst of the 1960’s. As such, while the counterculture celebrated marijuana for it’s psychoactive, quasi-mystical attributes, Mechoulam recognized the herb as a genuine medicine. To this end, he sought to objectively investigate it in controlled laboratory settings.

Rafael Mechoulam HistoryRafael Mecholuam

The importance of Mechoulam to modern day medical marijuana movements cannot be overstated. The research he conducted 50 years ago is still “ahead of its time” by today’s standards. To elaborate, in 1964 Mechoulam discovered the chemical composition of the main psychoactive compound in marijuana: tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. In other words, Mechoulam isolated, and broke down chemically, the primary psychoactive component in cannabis that has been getting individuals “high” for thousands of years. Interestingly, his discoveries represent a convergence of ancient and modern cultures. Because, Mechoulam described a plant suffused in a supernatural aura with the objective classifications of western science. Mechoulam’s laboratory work continued, and the scientific community recognizes him as “the first to complete the total synthesis of major plant cannabinoids 9-tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabidiol, cannabigerol, and others.” Mechoulam’s success with the synthetization of cannabinoids opened the door for the creation of pharmaceutical grade, synthetic cannabis medicines. These meds, such as “marinol,” have been prescribed to terminally ill cancer and aids patients in the U.S. for decades.

Rafael Mechoulam Headlines

As Mechoulam’s medical research into cannabis continued into the 1980’s, he made another paradigm-shifting discovery: that of the “endocannabinoid system.” As part of Mechoulam’s research methodology, he was attempting to discern “where the psychoactive compounds in cannabis THC” interact with the human body. In doing so, he discovered an entire network of “chemical compounds and receptors” now referred to as the endocannabinoid system. Upon discovering this previously unknown neural network, Mechoulam and his peers theorized that the endocannabinoid system acts to regulate chemical equilibriums within the human body. To elaborate further, Dr. Robert Melamede from the University of Colorado postulates that “it is the role of our bodies’ endocannabinoids to regulate healing processes by controlling free radicals… [he] refers to free radicals as the friction of life and the endocannabinoids as the oil.” As a result, Mechoulam’s discovery has set-the-stage for understanding alternative causes, as well as cures, for many common human maladies.

Mechoulam TodayRafael Mecholuam

As the medical marijuana movement continues to struggle with acceptance in mainstream medicine, Mechoulam’s discoveries are nothing short of revolutionary. They set the standards for younger generations of chemists, scientists, and doctors to follow. Today, Mechaulam remains on the cutting-edge of medical science research into cannabis. He serves on the scientific advisory board for such cannabis-based pharmaceutical manufactures as Kalytera. His works in themselves are also major motivators for cannabis advocacy groups the world over.


This article originally appeared in the December 2017 / January 2018 edition of HydroLife Magazine.

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