The True History of THC

Watch any of the most popular cannabis documentaries, browse through the major cannabis websites, and read the best-known books on cannabis, and you are likely to learn that the discovery of THC is credited to an Israeli chemist named Raphael Mechoulam. The discovery is purported to have been made in Israel in 1964 during a series of experiments conducted to study the active ingredients in cannabis. Without doing much digging into the subject, I myself accepted the story that Mechoulam was the discoverer of THC — that is, until I was informed by an article on by Canadian blogger Judith Stamps about the little-known controversy surrounding the true history of THC.

The Popular Narrative

Raphael Mechoulam, a professor and researcher at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, was born in Sophia, Bulgaria in 1930 to a Sephardic Jewish family. His parents, well-off and well-educated, were forced to move the family as a result of the National Socialist policies of 1930’s Germany, which the Bulgarian government was sympathetic to. His father, a physician and head of a hospital in Berlin, was sent to work at a concentration camp during WWII, which he survived. In 1949, Mechoulam’s family immigrated to Israel, where he obtained a PhD at the Weizmann Institute and later completed postdoctoral studies at the Rockefeller Institute in New York.