On October 23rd, the 3rd annual CannMed conference was kicked off by keynote speaker, Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, the “Father of Cannabinoid Research.” Dr. Mechoulam, the man who isolated THC in 1964 and has been working to broaden our understanding of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) ever since spoke to an enthusiastic audience via live-stream video and through a pre-recorded lecture. He was optimistic about the potential of cannabinoids and “cannabinoid-like substances” to improve well being, citing the work of Dr. George Kunos and others at the NIH who implicated the ECS in most human diseases.

Dr. Mechoulam divided cannabinoid research into three phases. Phase I, during the ’60s and ’70s, focused on phytocannabinoids. He discussed the entourage effect* and recognized the huge amount of research demonstrating THC is helpful for reducing vomiting and nausea in cancer patients and improved sleep in post-trauma patients. The Israeli researcher also cited the ability of CBD to reduce epileptic seizures and was optimistic about CBD-based medicines that are in the pipeline for Type 1 Diabetes and graft-versus-host disease (GvHD).

Phase II led to new knowledge about the receptors of the ECS and the cannabinoids made in our bodies—anandamide and 2-AG. Dr. Mechoulam discussed the positive effects of 2-AG on brain damage in mice and how stimulation of the ECS’s CB2 receptor can positively impact atherosclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, and inflammatory and neurodegenerative diseases—again, in mice.

In the current Phase III, scientists are discovering that “cannabinoid-like” compounds (essentially fatty acids bound to amino acids) are proving helpful in combatting osteoporosis and addiction in animal models.

One was left with the sense that, in the ECS, there is a treasure-trove of helpful information to be learned and compounds to be discovered…Dr. Mechoulam certainly set the stage for the content-rich lectures to come!

Here he is… speaking to us from across the sea!

– Sarah Cohen

* The entourage effect refers to the combined action of THC and any of the other compounds (including approximately 120 cannabinoids) found in the cannabis plant.