The role of the scientist has been a controversial position in society since the beginning of time. Laymen give them the grave responsibility of discovering, illuminating and dispensing the truth about the mysteries of biology, physiology and beyond. Yet, these same scientific saviors are often persecuted and portrayed as double-crossing defectors when their findings seemingly betray a common truth or reveal another possibility yet considered by the masses.
Like other groundbreaking, trailblazing and enterprising scientists throughout history, Raphael Mechoulam walked the line of decency with his pioneering research during a controversial time in Israel. In “The Scientist,” Zach Klein highlights Mechoulam as a fearless, purposeful innovator with an affinity for unearthing knowledge not being pursued by major groups throughout the world.
Originally born in Bulgaria, Mechoulam became best known for his work in Israel at various universities. During his time at Weizmann Institute, the young scientist requested that his director call the police department and request five kilos of hashish for research he was conducting. After that, he would go to the Ministry of Health for his experimental needs where they would sign off on his permit before his trips to the police station to pick it up.
It was after testing hashish on monkeys that the scientist was able to identify an active compound called Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). In order to see if this same compound would be effective for humans, Mechoulam used his friends as guinea pigs by administering to them 10mg of THC on slices of cake. Each person had a different and unique experience ranging from unstoppable talkativeness, random outbursts of laughter, feelings of relaxation or even heightened anxiety.
Filled with other interesting and smirk-worthy anecdotes, the documentary also offers an insightful and respectful look back at the indisputably effective role of cannabis as medicine throughout history, noting the plant’s almost unbelievable and seemingly endless list of practical uses. Along with citing cultures and civilizations from around the globe that have utilized the herb both internally and externally, the film unravels the efficacy of the compounds in cannabis through building on Mechoulam’s work with additional findings from other scientists like Professor Allyn Howlett, who performed the studies that revealed that humans have cannabinoid receptors.
For viewers looking for an in-your-face, rollercoaster of a biopic – this is definitely not for you. The documentary is primarily composed of animated reenactments and words of recollection from Mechoulam himself who prided himself on thorough research that sought to answer practical questions. It’s an interesting look at the life of a brilliant man through his own lens with a slow but steady pace. Though this effort may not be considered exciting, there are still some high energy moments that may enthuse lovers of scientific pursuits. Fans of facts and marijuana miscellany alike can enjoy this methodical and fascinating look at the journey of a talented scientist and how his discovery helped to contribute to the way science viewed cannabis forever.
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