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Dr. Alex Capano is the First Person to Earn a Ph.D. in Cannabinoid Studies, Using CBD on Patients

Sian Fullerton

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Dr. Alex Capano is the First Person to Earn a Ph.D. in Cannabinoid Studies, Using CBD on Patients
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  • Dr. Alex Capano has worked as a nurse practitioner before earning her Ph.D.
  • Additional research is needed in the CBD industry to ensure proper regulation.

As CBD use grows and cannabis continues to be legalized in various states, there is, unfortunately, plenty of misinformation that exists in the industry. Experts are in short supply, but Dr. Alex Capano may be setting a trend. Dr. Capano just made history in the cannabis industry, earning the first Ph.D. in cannabinoid studies, following schooling at the University of Miami and the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Capano has worked as a nurse practitioner for five years, and is still certified, but she chose to pursue her interest in the potential cannabis for pain relief, improving sleep, reducing anxiety, and dealing with opioid withdrawal. During an interview with Know Your Value, she stated,

“I observed patients, and I was reading case studies highlighting the potential therapeutic aspects of cannabis – mostly CBD – and it was very obvious that there was a major knowledge gap with clinicians and also a stigma.”

Now, the hope of Dr. Capano is to help “close that gap,” and make it possible for patients to get access to CBD, if it will help their particular struggle.

Cannabis itself is a broad term, referring to the flowering plant. It has both THC and CBD, which both have healing benefits, but THC can cause a psychotropic effect for consumers. Hemp, a cannabis crop, has a high level of CBD, which doesn’t cause the same impact, which makes the substance more appealing to some people in the industry.

There’s already an industry thriving over the use of CBD and hemp, but the research still has so much further to go before researchers fully understand what cannabis can do. There are gummies that claim to ease anxiety, massage oils that help with relaxation, and so many more products, but none of the claims can legally be proven. Dr. Capano even states that the majority of CBD products do not contain medical-grade ingredients, and they often leave the user with almost no effect.

Dr. Capano explained that, despite the murky path ahead, the industry is “closer than we’ve ever been.” She added,

“The good news is, the scientific community is pretty confident about CBD's safety, so that opens a lot of avenues for research … but there are answers that we don’t have yet. I see online this temptation for people to kind of make up answers and pull them out of thin air, and I won’t do that because it's not evidence-based.”

When she originally approached Thomas Jefferson University about writing a dissertation with cannabis as the main subject, the administration appeared open. At the time, her school was working to open the Lambert Center for the Study of Medicinal Cannabis and Hemp, a comprehensive medical school for cannabis studies, which is the first of its kind. She received approval from the administration, and the timing couldn’t have been more ideal.

With the legalization of hemp and CBD via the 2018 Farm Bill, the industry has grown substantially. With the growth of the legal sale of marijuana, the profits are expected to reach $30 billion in 2030. Dr. Capano explained that this massive explosion has created an opportunity that gives her a full selection of job offers, which is a direct contrast to “the lack of upward mobility” in her career thus far.

Explaining her comments, she stated, “For women in STEM, we’re sometimes held back from opportunities that are financially lucrative, or maybe felt like we had to do something for the greater good and have to be scraping by, and I didn’t want that anymore.” She explained that the science industry has a major wage gap, which she believes puts more pressure on women to take on roles as caretakers, rather than innovators.

Since she graduated, Dr. Capano has established herself as the chief science officer at Ecofibre Limited, a hemp company, giving her a chance to lecture at conferences, create new products, perform research, and more. However, there’s still plenty of work today, and Dr. Capano has positioned herself to be a part of this progress.

Sian Fullerton is a Canadian scribe who has it easy. After being a professional writer and editor professionally on two continents in the last 15 trips around the sun, her passion is language and has created a career of being featured in front page newspapers, consumer health websites as well as polishing content for ABC radio broadcasting in Australia.

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