Herbal Heros

By Charles “Uncle Chuck” Duncan

Ask a hundred people to name their hero and you will probably hear answers reflecting one or more athletes, parents, singers, actors and first responders. I will agree with the first and last of those choices. Not so much the middle two. But we all look up to people for different reasons, so I do not discount that certain singers and actors are heroes to some. There absolutely are many famous people who also act or sing for a living and are very kind and inspiring. The word “hero” is relative to you and your aspirations. 

Since seventh  grade, one of my personal aspirations has always been to have cannabis recognized and treated as a beneficial plant and not the poisonous, “gateway drug” it was wrongfully portrayed. It deserved more respect than that. Cannabis is too often looked at like a fart in church. Everyone giggles a little bit when it’s mentioned and conversations of munchies and stoners arise. An endless supply of pot movies, novels, cartoons and music are filling the market. Serious conversations regarding the physical and emotional benefits of cannabis get lost in the hazy noise. 

One of my heroes took steps to change the perception of cannabis and did so at great risk to himself and his freedom. During a time when people went to prison for a long, long time for even the tiniest amount of cannabis. To me, that is worthy of being called a hero. Not just because he was championing a plant that I dearly loved and wanted for others to understand. But because he wanted to show the truth, no matter the cost to him personally. The hero I am talking about is Raphael Mechoulam. An organic chemist from Bulgaria who changed our understanding of cannabis and is still doing so today.

Rapheals’ first present to the cannabis community was isolating and identifying delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC. He just happens to also be responsible for the isolation and identification of the endocannabinoid Anandamide. My jeep “ana” is named after this most important molecule. For more information on Endocannabinoids and THC, visit my online cannabis education portal Uncle Chuck’s Cannabis Camp at theuccc.com.

When I say that these discoveries came at great risk to Raphael, I am not exaggerating at all.  He is the father of cannabis for a reason. His research and many, many scientific articles has led to amazing advancements in how we understand cannabis. He is long overdue for a Nobel Prize, in my personal opinion. Remember, he started his research in the early 60’s. Not really a cannabis friendly time unless you were attending a rock festival or playing Jazz in the deep south. Raphael was in the middle east. Parts of the middle east carried the death penalty for possessing cannabis. Some places still do today.

But Raphael had a friend. A friend in law enforcement. Long story short. Raphaels friend secured a small amount of hash for him to use in his research. This sample, having been carried back to the lab in a small container in Raphaels coat pocket. Over many bus trips and one would assume, past many officers of the law. The story goes that once Raphael got back to the lab, his friend back at the police station called him and told him he had to return the hash. Apparently his friend didn’t have permission to release it and now they were both in hot water. Raphael returned and explained that he only wanted to research it in the lab and had no intention of selling any of it. It worked. 

Now decades later, discoveries regarding cannabis in general and phyto and endo cannabinoids in specific are for the most part due to Rapheals original research. He has brought scientific facts and integrity to the cannabis world. Both of which are instrumental in advancing cannabis understanding and acceptance. But more importantly the removal of misinformation and stereotypes. As a cannabis advocate, I can think of no other person I respect more than Raphael Mechoulsm. For his risk and research, I consider him a true hero.                              

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