We believe that the next Nobel Prize for medicine should go to the now 88 year old Raphael Mechoulam.
If the people involved in the medical cannabis world should know one name, that is without a doubt the name of professor Raphael Mechoulam. Born and raised in Sofia, Bulgaria, the 18-year-old Raphael immigrated to Israel with his family after WWII. There he studied chemistry, receiving his Ph.D. at the Weizmann Institute, Rehovot in the year 1958 with a thesis on the chemistry of steroids. Several years later, working alongside prof. Yechiel Gaoni, the research on cannabis plants resulted in the isolation and complete elucidation of the structure of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). That discovery was the result of the identification and elucidation of the other major cannabinoid – cannabidiol (CBD), which although discovered two decades earlier by a team at the university of Illinois, was still not thoroughly researched.
How was the research made possible? Hemp and especially hashish is well known in the Middle East, Turkey and Greece. History shows that in the beginning of the 20th century it was actually quite common for people to use hashish, as it was available to purchase at some coffee shops and dedicated hashish dens in the cities. As years went by the legislation of the countries in the region started prohibiting the drug and prosecuting people selling and farming it. Thus later in the sixties it wasn’t easy for a young Israeli scientist to get his hands on cannabis plants. In a recent interview (read full story here) professor Mechoulam recalls how he had to persuade the police authorities to gift him several kilograms of “superb, smuggled Lebanese hashish” for the goals of his research. This is how it all started and the work Raphael Mechoulam continues even to this day.
After more than 40 years of research professor Mechoulam, his colleagues from Weizmann Institute and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (where he is a professor of medical chemistry since 1972) and his postdocs are responsible not only for most of our knowledge about cannabinoids such as THC and CBD, but the identification of the endocannabinoid system, the discoveries of cannabigerol, the endocannabinoid anandamide and the 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). One of the greatest barriers for the practical side of all their discoveries and chemical research is unfortunately still present. The strict regulations regarding cannabis and the lack of interest from pharmaceutical companies to engage in clinical research with cannabis products hold back the advance and the further use of the vast work done by professor Mechoulam. Yet he is optimist that the human health will one day fully benefit from the medical qualities this plant has to offer.
If you agree that Professor Mechoulam should receive the Nobel Prize, you can join the petition: https://www.change.org/p/nobelforum-nobel-se-nobel-prize-for-raphael-mechoulam
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