Tag Archives: Raphael Mechoulam

Part Four: Strong Medical Cannabis Research Happening in Israel

When it comes to cutting-edge medical cannabis research, Israel is the hot spot.

Recreational marijuana is illegal in Israel, but the Israeli government encourages the use of cannabis therapeutically. The Ministry of Health there oversees the growing and distribution of medical marijuana.

Last year, doctors in Israel prescribed medical marijuana to about 25,000 patients with cancer, degenerative diseases, epilepsy, and post-traumatic stress.

The big push on medical cannabis research in Israel right now? A purified form of cannabis that can be administered in precise doses and with minimal side-effects.

Federal law here in the U.S. makes it difficult for scientists to study the plant and its medicinal potential. Israel, though, doesn’t have the same restrictions. And unlike in other countries, human clinical trials on medical cannabis are allowed in Israel.

In fact, an Israeli biochemist is the world’s pioneer and foremost expert on medical marijuana research. In the 1960s, Raphael Mechoulam determined the structure of cannabis’s component cannabidiol (CBD). He also isolated tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) for the first time.

He also identified the brain’s first endogenous cannabinoid and found a compound in the body that activates cannabinoid receptors. Although he retired years ago, the octagenarian still goes to work to conduct his medical marijuana research.

Working Together

American and Canadian pharmaceutical companies, tobacco companies, and producers work with Israel researchers and organizations. Even the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) funds research in Israel. The NIH has helped fund Mechoulam’s medical cannabis research for almost 50 years.

The Hebrew Unversity of Jerusalem recently opened a cannabis research center. There are now 20 such research centers in Israel. And this year, Tel Aviv hosted the second annual international conference on medical cannabis, CannaTech.

Watch The Scientist (1:02), a documentary about Dr. Mechoulam.

“The Scientist” is a documentary that traces the story of Dr. Mechoulam from his early days……as a child of the Holocaust in Bulgaria, through his immigration to Israel, and his career as the chief investigator into the chemistry and biology of the world’s most misunderstood plant. Dr. Mechoulam ascertained that THC interacts with the largest receptor system in the human body, the endocannabinoid system (ECS). 

Also in this series:

Part 1: The History of Cannabis

Part 2: How Cannabis Works

Part 3: Who Takes Medical Marijuana?

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