In Memoriam: Raphael Mechoulam, “Father of Cannabis Research”

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A pioneer in global cannabis research, Professor Raphael Mechoulam died March 9th, 2023 in Israel at the age of 92.

Professor Raphael Mechoulam, a researcher at Hebrew University’s School of Pharmacy, was a world leader in cannabinoid research. Mechoulam’s groundbreaking work included the isolation of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in the 1960s along with several other cannabinoids, as well as the discovery of endocannabinoids in the 1990s (1,2). He coauthored the book CBD: What Does the Science Say? in 2022.

"Most of the human and scientific knowledge about cannabis was collected thanks to Professor Mechoulam,” said Professor Asher Cohen, President of Hebrew University (1). “He paved the way for a series of studies in the field and called for scientific collaboration among different researchers. He was a sharp-minded, groundbreaking, and charismatic intellectual. This is a sad day for the academic community, and I extend my heartfelt condolences to the family. May his memory be a blessing."


Professor Mechoulam was born in Sofia, Bulgaria in 1930, and after surviving the Holocaust, he immigrated to Israel with his family in 1949. Mechoulam completed his degree in biochemistry in 1953 at Hebrew University, began his research in cannabinoids at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel in 1962, and then joined the Hebrew University in 1966, where he continued to study the compounds found in cannabis (1). He was appointed as a full-time professor in the 1970s, then was appointed to the Lionel Jacobson Chair in Medicinal Chemistry, and between 1979-1982 he served as the Rector of the Hebrew University.

Mechoulam was one of the founding members of the International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines. In 1999, he was appointed the President of the International Cannabinoid Research Society (ICRS), a position he held until 2002. The ICRS presents their highest award, the "Raphael Mechoulam Award," each year (3). Additionally, he served as the Head of the Natural Sciences Division at the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities.

“This is a very sad day for me, for the science community, and for the cannabis community,” said Dr. David “Dedi” Meiri, associate professor at Technion Israel Institute of Technology, (4). “Professor Raphael Mechoulam, or as we called him Raphi, was one of the greatest scientists I ever met and was my teacher and mentor in many aspects. I truly believe he was deserving of a Nobel prize! Thank you Raphi for all the great things you did and discovered in your life and thanks for all the help and support you gave me. Rest in peace my dear friend.”

Throughout his life, Mechoulam received dozens of awards, honors, and decorations, including the Israel Prize for Chemistry (2000), the EMET Prize (2012), Rothschild Prize in Chemical Sciences and Physical Sciences (2012), the Harvey Prize of the Technion Israel Institute of Technology (2019), plus several honorary doctorates (3).

We thank you for your numerous contributions to the science of cannabis, Professor Mechoulam. We are eternally grateful for your research, dedication, and legacy.

Special thanks to Ilanit Liberman for providing additional information and quotes.