By John McPartland and Fred Gardner, July 29, 2015

The longtime executive director of the International Cannabinoid Research Society, Rik Musty, died July 26, at home in Wacouta, Minnesota, at the age of 72.

Rik was born in Minnesota, earned a BA from Carleton College in 1964, and a PhD in Psychology from McGill in 1968. He joined the University of Vermont faculty that year, and chaired the Department of Psychology from 1975 to 1987. He mentored 31 Masters and Doctoral students, and served on the committees of 20 additional theses and dissertations.

His cannabinoid research began in 1973, as a Visiting Professor in Sao Paulo Brazil, working with Karniol and Carlini. That fruitful collaboration continued through 2006, bolstered by sabbatical leaves to Brazil in 1981 and 2004. PubMed lists 25 publications. Musty also wrote a dozen book chapters —including two published in 1984 on the anti-anxiety effects of cannabidiol. 

CBD 84

A paper he-coauthored (Eur Neurol. 38:44-8)  encouraged the development of a cannabis-based medicine for the treatment of multiple sclerosis; it has been cited more than 200 times. 

In 1987, Rik, Greg Chesher, and Paul Consroe chaired the Melbourne Symposium on Cannabinoids (following an IUPHAR meeting) and edited a report published by the Australian government.  In 1990 Rik,  Consroe, and Alex Makriyannis organized a symposium on Crete at which Rik proposed that cannabinoid researchers form a society to hold annual meetings. He had brought by-laws of a Vermont non-profit to expedite the launch of an International Cannabinoid Research Society. The 45 charter members include many still active in the society: Greg Chesher, Dale Deutsch, Mahmoud ElSohly, Javier Fernandez-Ruiz, Eliot Gardner, Allyn Howlett, Toby Jarbe, Thomas Lundqvist, Alex Makriyannis, Raphael Mechoulam, Roger Pertwee, Patti Reggio, and Herb Seltzman.

Consroe says that the creation of the ICRS loosened the vice-like grip of the US National Institute on Drug Abuse on conference content. NIDA is still the dominant funder of cannabinoid research and strongly influences the ICRS agenda —but not to the extent it once did, says Consroe. 

The first ICRS symposium was held in Keystone, Colorado, in June, 1992, as a satellite meeting of the College on Problems of Drug Dependence.

Rik served as the first ICRS treasurer, then was executive director through 2010. Assisted by Diane Mahadeen Musty, he ran exceptionally collegial, increasingly well-attended meetings in memorable locations.   The Society acknowledged his contribution through an ICRS Career Achievement Award presented at the Lund, Sweden meeting in 2010.

Rik was a quiet-spoken man with wide interests. Few people know his political career. Rik teamed with Bernie Sanders in 1982, which propelled both of them into office—Rik as Burlington City Councilman for Ward 1, and Bernie as Mayor. Rik served for four years on the city council; Bernie went on to run for higher office. In 1986 the two men taught a class at the University of Vermont on “The ‘60s.” (Video of their first 2-hour-long class has been made available by the archivists at Burlington’s Channel 17 / Town Meeting TV. Sanders comes on at the 77 minute mark.)

Rik’s political skills were on display at the 1998 ICRS meeting in La Grand Motte, France. At the end of the NIDA presentations, Ed Rosenthal of High Times bluntly asked “Do any of you think your work is influenced by [NIDA Director] Alan Leshner’s bias?” There was a pause as the panelists looked at each other to see who would respond. After a few beats Rik said, “Science is always influenced by the culture in which it’s conducted.”

Earlier this year Rik forwarded (to FG) a warning posted on the US Food and Drug Administration website about products falsely labeled as to their cannabidiol content. He said he hoped that, “as the first U.S. researcher to investigate CBD,” his request to the FDA for more information would be honored. We ran a news item about the FDA’s warning to scammers, and were  planning to publish whatever Rik could find out about FDA’s monitoring and testing of CBD products. 

Rik’s Minnesota sense of humor was like Garrison Keillor’s. My (J. McP.) first appointment to meet Rik at his office in October 1993 was delayed by a freak Autumn snowstorm. My second visit in May 1994 also occurred in the midst of an unseasonable snowstorm that shut down Burlington. Rik smiled and asked me to limit my visits to normal winter months. He will be missed.

Rik and Diane in Cornwall, 2006. Photo by Roger Pertwee

Rik and Diane in Cornwall, 2006. Photo by Roger Pertwee