The career path of Dr. Hervé Damas has been unorthodox. He has been a linebacker for the Buffalo Bills, a professor and wellness director at the College of New Jersey, and an interventional radiologist at Mount Sinai. Most recently, though, he has taken on the mantle of marijuana doctor.
Damas, like many in Florida, grew tired of the state's foot-dragging on allowing patients access to medical cannabis after voters overwhelmingly passed Amendment 2 in 2016. Damas is not only a knowledgable physician, but also someone who has personally benefitted from marijuana.
Now he's taking his expertise to Wynwood, where he'll open a clinic offering cannabis evaluations and CBD products. He says Grassroots Medicine & Wellness Center, which will be located at 2328 N. Miami Ave., is expected to open by May 1 as the bustling neighborhood's first marijuana clinic.
Before Damas made his way to Miami's trendy arts district, his career path didn't exactly run in a straight line.
He was signed by the Buffalo Bills in 1995 after playing in college at Hofstra, but he suffered knee injuries that required surgery and cut his career short before he played a game for the team. He became something of a wellness guru while he recovered, and then, in 2002, when his mother fell ill, he decided to pursue a career in medicine at 33 years old.
"When she passed away in 2004," Damas says, "I packed my stuff up, I moved to Miami Beach, and I went to FIU and started my basic sciences as an undergrad all over again."
While in school, he developed a condition that required more surgery. He couldn't deal with the side effects of opioids and was in nearly constant pain. He began taking sleeping pills, and he began suffering from headaches and anxiety.
"My wife said to me: 'You need to smoke a joint and chill out,'" Damas says. "I'd tried marijuana in high school, maybe in college once or twice. I was never a big smoker.'"
After five months of pain, anxiety, headaches, and mood swings, he finally relented. Smoking allowed him to focus again, and the pot helped him to relax and sleep. Damas says marijuana gave him his quality of life back.
"That's when I decided that if I ever had a chance to get into medical marijuana, I would do it," he says.
Damas earned his medical degree in 2013 from the St. Kitts-based Medical University of the Americas and did his residency at Mount Sinai. When Amendment 2 passed, he told his wife he was ready to dive into medical marijuana. He began speaking to other NFL players who had treated long-term injuries with pot, and he later partnered with the Cannabis Clinicians of Colorado to study the effects of CBD on former professional athletes.
"Half of my patients are in the Orlando and Tampa areas because there's a large concentration of football players there," Damas says.
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For now, he has set up shop at the Lab Miami, where he evaluates patients seeking state-certified cannabis ID cards. Soon he hopes to open Grassroots Medicine, which he describes as a "unique holistic experience."
"My place, as a wellness center, will provide cannabis evaluations, will provide mental health evaluations, nutritional counseling — we want to be a destination, not a typical doctor's office," Damas says. "You'll learn about alternative medicine, but we're also going to have a spiritual component to it."
Damas says he's learned to embrace alternative healing, from medical marijuana to meditation to crystals. He doesn't dismiss the value of Western medicine but says his own twisting life journey has led him to found a different kind of clinic.
"For lack of a better word," he says, "it's a really 'Kumbaya' place because that's where I am in my life."