Raphael Mechoulam,’Father Of Israeli Medical Cannabis Research,’ Nabs US Botanical Award
March 20, 2018 | The American Botanical Council (ABC) said it awarded the 2017 ABC Norman R. Farnsworth Excellence in Botanical Research Award to Israeli professor Raphael Mechoulam, an organic chemist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the “father of cannabis research.” Mechoulam was the first researcher in 1964 to isolate, and synthesize delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, one of 70 cannabinoids (the active molecules in cannabis). THC is responsible for the ‘high’ feeling, while CBD is marijuana’s non-psychoactive component, which has been proven to have several health benefits. Cannabinoids are generally used to reduce pain, stress, as well as to increase appetite, among other uses. “Cannabis has been known for millennia both for its therapeutic effects and for its effects on mood and behavior. However, as the chemistry of the cannabis constituents had not been well established when we started our research in the 1960s, there was essentially no modern medical use of cannabis,” Mechoulam said in a statement, adding that he strongly believes “that plant and endogenous cannabinoids or their derivatives will become major drugs.” Present day pharmacology, he said, and clinical work with any drug — including drugs from plants — “is based on reliable chemical knowledge.” Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of ABC said the council was “pleased and honored to bestow the Norman R. Farnsworth Award to Professor Mechoulam,” whom he said was “internationally recognized for his many compelling and pioneering discoveries regarding the chemistry and pharmacology of cannabis. These accomplishments created new research opportunities in the novel field of the human endocannabinoid system, one of the most important regulatory systems in human physiology.” Stefan Gafner, PhD, ABC’s chief science officer, said, “Professor Mechoulam is truly a giant among natural products scientists. He made some of the most impactful discoveries in the area of botanical research. With the elucidation of the structures of THC, CBD, and many of the minor cannabinoids, he laid the foundation for scientific research on cannabis. The discovery of endogenous ligands to the cannabinoid brain receptors provided an avenue for numerous researchers to investigate the physiological processes in which the endocannabinoid system is involved.” The award, named for Norman R. Farnsworth, an internationally renowned research professor of pharmacognosy who passed away in 2011, was presented to Mechoulam at the 13th Annual ABC Botanical Celebration and Awards Ceremony on March 8, 2018, in Anaheim, California. The recognition is given annually to an individual who has made significant research contributions in the fields of pharmacognosy, ethnobotany, ethnopharmacology, or other related scientific disciplines dealing with medicinal plant research, ABC said in the statement.