Dr. Denise Vidot
Unlike Colorado and California, the State of Florida is a not as progressive when it comes to legalizing cannabis. Dr. Denise Vidot is ahead of the game when it comes to making a difference within the cannabis community. She is a public health professor at The University of Miami, Founder and President of CanaVee, and the eldest of 7 children, so being a leader is nothing new for her. Read more below on how she has scientifically proven the benefits of the flower.
Based on your studies, what have you found to be some core benefits of cannabis?
“I’m an epidemiologist that studies the mental and physical health impact of cannabis use on multiple diseases. I’m sure you have heard the hypothesis that cannabis makes you a lazy person with the “munchies”; the research my team is conducting is actually disproving that. For example, our studies comparing cannabis consumers and non-consumers (controlling for age, sex, and income) have shown that cannabis consumers have lower waist circumference, glucose, triglyceride, and cholesterol levels. I’ve also studied metabolic syndrome which is a cluster of different risk factors that put people at risk for cardiovascular disease. I’m seeing that those who use cannabis are having a lower prevalence of getting these diseases.”
Where do you think the stigma comes from?
“It really is about the delivery of a topic through media. If they say something is bad, the population runs with it until proven otherwise. The person who tells the story is who makes the rules. Even in science, information can be extracted; we learn what is taught. Think about this in the context of the endocannabinoid system. Despite being our body’s master regulator, it is not formally taught in medicine, nursing, nor public health. Any extra knowledge gained is totally up to the individual, which can contribute to stigma of cannabis is a drug, not a medicine. Education is important, but comprehension and implementation of the knowledge gained is key to reducing stigma.”
What is CanaVee and how is it helping those within your community?
“It’s a nonprofit organization that I birthed and gave life to. I created a space for evidence-based research to help patients outside of my role at The University of Miami. I may say certain things in my role as a scientist at the University, but outside of the academic setting I can share and help the communityinterpret and have access to literature that can change their circumstances. ”
Why is it important to you as a Latina woman to educate others on the benefits of cannabis?
“As a Puerto Rican with roots in Seychelles, it is important for me to help remind our community of source and nature because it is part of my DNA, but also because I have lived through personal experiences that demand I take action. I can think of 3 examples immediately, all that occurred in high school and still impact my passion for educating about cannabis:
First, in high school my boyfriend, Obel St. Vil, was murdered; since he sold cannabis, he was labeled a drug dealer. People dismissed the fact that a 17-year-old black male was murdered by a 25-year-old white male. We have to get rid of this stigma.
Second, in highschool, my father was diagnosed with cancer and scleroderma. Cannabis has helped him so much, but he was always nervous about buying and consuming which impacted his mental health. With the knowledge we have about the benefits of cannabis in cancer patients; nobody should feel that way. We have to get rid of this stigma.
Finally, here in South Florida we have a large population of older Hispanic women who have been raised on the idea that “devils’ lettuce” is going to get you deported or make you crazy in the head! I want my people to stop being brainwashed and to know that its ok cannabis can be good for us.”
And how is that going?
“I must admit that in the beginning it was really hard. I started advocating when Florida was only medicinal for special cases, so I was working against the stigma a lot in the beginning. During the pandemic, cannabis was seen as essential, and it really did help with our fight. In fact, we are seeing more people than ever interested in the plant and it’s hard to keep up with the inquiries.”
“What I’m most excited about now is that after being one of few medical professionals who openly support this movement, other clinicians are opening up to the possibilities of cannabis as a treatment or therapy. For a while, I was only helping those who came to me for my studies but now I’m educating more physicians. It’s almost irresponsible to only focus on the patients when they are saying things like their providers aren’t listening. I enjoy doing rounds at different hospitals and letting them know why cannabis is an alternative. I’m also focused on mentoring the next generation, my lab at the university is 90% student driven and 90% are from culture backgrounds traditionally underrepresented in their profession. These are future nurses, doctors, cultivators, and even lawyers learning about the medicinal components of Cannabis and that’s a good network of future changemakers.”
How has cannabis helped you personally?
“I’m a lupus patient and an athlete so I apply ointments to my muscles when I have a lot of pain. It’s the reason why I can still be a scientist and athlete. Being a lupus patient, I have learned that I need to be plant based in all aspects of my healing journey so I can get back to the way nature intended my body to be. Cannabis has opened my eyes to plants in general, but I’ve began to study other terpenes and plants also.”
What can we expect from you and CanaVee in the future?
“Regarding CanaVee, we will have more engagement within the community. Right now we are here for whoever finds us… but we will be more active in the world at the end of the year. Regarding the science, my team and I just launched the Herbal Heart Study. It represents the future of cannabis science since it’s the first long-term study on cannabinoids within 18–35-year-olds and the heart that is funded by the National Institute of Health. In this study, we are examining the relationship between cannabis and cardiovascular disease risk based on how cannabis is consumed (blunt, joint, or cart/vape). The most exciting part is that we are building a family cannabis consumers that will contribute to science through our team’s studies hopefully over their lifetime that way there can be no more questioning of data because we are now funded! There’s so much to look forward to.”
How can people support you?
“If people would like to be a part of transformative studies, we are looking for 400 participants in South Florida for our herbal heart study (www.herbalheartstudy.com). If not in South Florida, we would LOVE if you follow us on social media (@dr.vidot, @vidotcannabislab, @herbalheartstudy), but mainly continuing to pass our messages with evidence is the best way to help.”
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