April 25th, 2016

Dr. Raphael M

Meet Dr. Raphael Mechoulam: The Father Of Modern Cannabis Research

Last week I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, the world’s most prominent research scientist in the area of cannabis. His discovery and exploration of the endocannabinoid system are regarded by some as being worthy of the Noble Prize. He is a down to earth, unassuming man who is still doing research at the age of 87.

With some exasperation, Dr. Mechoulam said to me, “We knew 35 years ago that cannabidiol could be helpful in treating seizure disorders.” This substance is still extremely difficult to research in this country because the DEA treats it as a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance because it is an ingredient of the cannabis sativa plant. This is the case despite the fact that it is not an abusable substance and may actually help to counteract the psychoactive effects of THC. Recent good news in this regard was the NIDA’s announcement that they would be making cannabidiol available to research scientists for their studies.

In 2015 a documentary entitled The Scientist was made about Dr. Mechoulam, and I recommend it highly to anyone interested in this field. The film opens with a description of the long history of the uses to which cannabidiol was put by many civilizations for thousands of years before its restrictions over the past 80 years. In addition to the focus on Dr. Mechoulam, one also gets to see the many other collaborating scientists throughout the world who have helped to clarify some of the details of this extensive and important system about which so much is still not known.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that NIH had also been supportive of Mechoulam’s work despite the obstacles to legitimate cannabis research that still exist in this country. A recurrent theme of the documentary is the strikingly limited follow up by pharmaceutical companies to laboratory and preliminary human research about the potential medical benefits of cannabis.

A few days after meeting Dr. Mechoulam, I heard support for his position at an impressive presentation given by Dr. Eliot Gardner, a leading neurobiology researcher at NIH, at the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Addiction Medicine. His studies, conducted with animals, have unequivocally demonstrated that cannabis has potential utility for the treatment of pain as well as for addictions. He argued, with some of the exasperation that I had heard from Dr. Mechoulam, that there is more than sufficient evidence to support a more aggressive exploration of medications for these disorders for which too few medications that are both safe and effective are currently available.

Any ideas that you have about how to unlock cannabidiol from the closet where the DEA has it locked would be most welcome.

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