The Scientist – Prof. R. Mechoulam
“As scientists, indeed, as intellectuals, we should try always to be skeptical.” Just imagine: What if the cannabis plant and its astonishing range of healing properties had been suddenly discovered today in a remote forest? The find would send seismic shockwaves blasting through the scientific community overnight. The plant would immediately come under frantically intense study in every nation on earth, and the person who first identified the active compounds would be revered as an inspiring icon of medical science, forever.
“The Scientist” is a documentary that traces the story of Dr. Mechoulam from his early days….
Well, thanks to politics, 10,000 years later the global scientific embrace of the humble and spectacularly versatile ‘miracle plant’ has yet to transpire. But at least, thanks to The Scientist from Zach Klein and Y. Klinik Productions, we still get to know in marvelous depth our inspiring medical icon—and to revel in his fascinating and unlikely journey of discovery spanning nearly half a century.
Klein’s 2009 debut Prescribed Grass documented the stunning success of cannabis therapy so thoroughly, it prompted health officials in Israel to launch what is now the world’s largest state-sponsored medical cannabis program. He has followed up that effort with what should be regarded as the frontrunner for 2015 Documentary of the Year. The Scientist is a compelling masterpiece that chronicles the life and times of famed Israeli biochemist Raphael Mechoulam, Ph.D., who is hailed as the “grandfather of cannabis research”.
Dr. Mechoulam explains it as a matter of convenience: “With a small budget, you have to pick a topic not already being pursued by any major research groups.” Having done his doctoral dissertation on natural products related to biological problems, figuring out what makes cannabis work was a “natural” fit for him. He was, true to his word, skeptical—of the wildly divergent claims made about the effects of cannabis. He decided to learn the truth. First he identified the chemical structure of CBD and THC (cannabidiol and tetrahydrocannabinol) in 1963 and 1964, respectively. Then in 1988 came the next important discovery: Our brains and bodies have specific receptors for cannabis molecules.
But why? Dr. Mechoulam’s team reasoned that if we have receptors, they couldn’t have evolved just to receive molecules from a single species of plant; we must make our own cannabis internally. The hunt began for human-generated cannabis molecules, and in 1992 the first was revealed: anandamide, regulator of the immune and nervous systems.
Two years later, Dr. Mechoulam’s fourth major discovery rocked the biomedical world: an entirely new body system. It is no overstatement to say the endocannabinoid system is equally vital as the neurological, or endocrine, or any of our other biological systems, and that knowledge of its existence could, and should, change the field of medicine drastically and permanently. Astonishingly, every process in every cell of our bodies is mediated in some way by our own cannabinoids acting on receptors. And those receptors are also susceptible to activation by careful application of external cannabinoids from the cannabis plant.
Therein, hopefully, lies the future of medicine.