Raphael Mechoulam, ‘father of cannabis research,’ dies at 92

Hebrew University of Jerusalem professor Raphael Mechoulam, considered the “father of cannabis research,” has died in Israel.

He was 92.

In the 1960s, Mechoulam and his team of researchers began cannabinoid experiments in Israel, becoming the first to isolate delta-9 THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis.

Among his other achievements: designing and synthesizing several novel cannabinoids with therapeutic potential as pharmaceutical drugs.

“Most of the human and scientific knowledge about cannabis was accumulated thanks to Prof. Mechoulam,” Hebrew University President Asher Cohen said in a statement.

“He paved the way for groundbreaking studies and initiated scientific cooperation between researchers around the world.”

Mechoulam was nominated for more than 25 academic awards, including:

  • The Heinrich Wieland Prize in 2004.
  • An honorary doctorate from Complutense University in Madrid in 2006.
  • The Israel Prize in Exact Sciences, Chemistry, in 2000.

The medical cannabis pioneer was a founding member of the International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines and the International Cannabinoid Research Society.

In 1994 he was elected as a member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities.

Mechoulam was born in Bulgaria in 1930 and immigrated with his family to Israel in 1949, where he later studied chemistry.

He received a Ph.D. at the Weizmann Institute, Rehovot, in 1958, with a thesis on the chemistry of steroids.

After postdoctoral studies at the Rockefeller Institute in New York (1959–60), Mechoulam was on the scientific staff of the Weizmann Institute from 1960 to 1965, focusing on the isolation, structure elucidation and synthesis of the main active principles of cannabis.

Mechoulam moved to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and became a full professor in 1972.