How 'Grandfather of Pot' Almost Tried THC, but Didn't

Raphael Mechoulam discusses early research, future of weed
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 28, 2014 9:21 AM CST
How 'Grandfather of Pot' Almost Tried THC, but Didn't
In this Dec. 9, 2013 file photo, marijuana grower Marcelo Vazquez checks the leaves of his plants for fungus, on the outskirts of Montevideo, Uruguay.   (AP Photo/Matilde Campodonico, File)

Raphael Mechoulam is known in Israel as the "Grandfather of Marijuana." The 84-year-old scientist—the first to isolate THC, from 5 kilos of hashish he bought from a guy in Tel Aviv—even acknowledges, "I get fan mail sometimes." But though he's spent decades researching pot, including its effect on sufferers of schizophrenia, graft-versus-host disease, osteoporosis, and epilepsy, Mechoulam's stance on the legalization of marijuana may surprise you: "I am definitely not happy with people going to jail for using weed, but if I had to vote yes or no, I would vote against it," he tells Vocativ. He bases his opinion on the effects of THC on young people's brains, he says, though he admits he's never tried the stuff.

Once, for an experiment, "we sprinkled some THC on 10 slices of cake. Half of us got the THC slices, half got a placebo slice," Mechoulam recalls. "One subject started talking nonstop; my wife was just sitting on a couch, in her own world; another one suffered a psychotic episode," he says. "Turns out, I was in the control group." He long ago realized how endocannabinoids affect a person's appetite, mood, and memory, but "a lot of time has been wasted" by drug companies who didn't think THC was worth the investment, he says. "The US authorities now realize they have to promise exclusivity to some drug companies who develop a medicine based on cannabis, and some companies try to modify the natural materials so they can patent them." (Read more THC stories.)

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