Dr Raphael Mechoulam has enjoyed an incredibly fulfilling and accomplished career. His scientific breakthrough came early when he managed to isolate and identify the chemical compounds of the cannabis plant. The Scientist offers a riveting account of this breakthrough discovery, which serves as just a single chapter of an extraordinary life.
As a young man working in a research lab at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, he proposed a thorough study of cannabis, the illegal substance which was used solely for recreational purposes at that time. He hatched a plan to procure samples of hashish which had been seized by area law enforcement. His experiments led to a surprising discovery: cannabis contains only one active compound – delta-nine tetrahydrocannabinol, otherwise known as THC.
He soon became a major advocate for the medicinal use of the drug. This concept might have been unheard of in the early days of his career, but it had historical precedence. Ancient cultures utilized the plant for a variety of wellness purposes, including those aimed at reducing inflammation and anxiety. Mechoulam’s early studies found tremendously effective applications in the treatment of epileptic seizures. Later, he and his research team would uncover the cannabinoid receptors in the brain. They also isolated the molecule which acts as the major neurotransmitter, which they called anandamide.
Mechoulam recounts not only his achievements in the field of science but details his upbringing as a young child growing up in Bulgaria during the Holocaust as well. His father was sent to a concentration camp to provide meagre medical assistance to its inhabitants. From these recollections, the viewer is made aware of the doctor’s true character, and it becomes apparent that he was raised with a keen understanding of medicine’s sacred value, and instilled with a great and thriving spirit against the face of adversity.
Those qualities serve him well as he continues to fight the misconceptions and controversies that surround the use of medicinal marijuana. In Mechoulam’s view, the drug harbours enormous potential in the treatment of many of our most common conditions. The Scientist provides an entirely convincing and inspirational master class for those interested in learning more about this fascinating subject.