Name: Dorothy “Dot” Colagiovanni
Occupation: Senior Director of Pharmaceutical Development, Next Frontier Biosciences
Tell us about your professional background.
I am a scientist with a PhD in toxicology. I have over two decades of experience working in the biotech industry developing drugs for cystic fibrosis, oncology, infections and inflammation. In 2016, I joined Next Frontier Biosciences as the Senior Director of Pharmaceutical Development.
When and how did you become an advocate for cannabis?
My advocacy began when my son was placed on the organ transplant list. He was born with a rare liver disease that required extensive medical care and maintenance. After a decade of living with his native liver, it began to fail, and in 2010 my son was placed on the pediatric transplant list in Colorado. There is no way to describe the despair I felt watching my son slowly dying in front of my eyes while waiting for someone else’s child to die so mine could live. Every day was a struggle to get out of bed and try to be a mom to our son and older daughter.
Trying to manage a normal family life was challenging as our son could not attend school due to risks of infection. He also required at-home nursing care and nightly IV food supplementation. In order to manage the depression and anxiety I was experiencing during this waiting period, I relied on cannabis. Every evening after the kids went to bed, I would take a bath and smoke a bowl. It was the only way I could cope with the overwhelming situation. It made me realize that consuming cannabis was perfect for situational depression and stress without any long-term consequences associated with many pharmaceutical medications.
How has cannabis benefited your life?
Cannabis helped me get through the most difficult time of my life. Cannabis is a stress-reducing medication for me. I am normally a very Type A, high intensity person. Cannabis helps me relax and unwind.
What’s your greatest achievement for the cannabis cause?
I hope my greatest achievement is yet to come, but, when I left biotech to join Next Frontier Biosciences, I made a commitment to help people by developing new products for the cannabis industry.
How did that manifest?
After years of research and development, Next Frontier Biosciences [launched] its first line of medical and recreational cannabis products in Colorado. These products are transmucosally and topically delivered and include a nasal mist, sublingual spray and topical salve.
Who do you look up to or admire?
I admire the 14th Dalai Lama, a man who escaped his homeland of Tibet in 1959 to spiritually lead his people and can never return. He shows humility, compassion and humor in all he does and says. He is a beacon of hope to me in the current unhinged political environment.
If you could change one thing about the way cannabis is viewed and/or treated right now, what would it be?
I would remove cannabis from DEA Scheduling. Cannabis is medicine that can heal many afflictions more safely than pharmaceutical drugs. It should be viewed as a benefit to society, rather than the scourge some politicians present it as.