By Brian Howard
Florida A&M University (FAMU) Medical Marijuana Education and Research Initiative (MMERI) Interim Executive Director Patricia Green-Powell, Ph.D., was among the panelists during a virtual Canna-Biz event Wednesday.
Joining Green-Powell on the New Leaders Council (NLC) Tallahassee panel were Leon County Commissioner Kristin Dozier and Florida Director of Cannabis Holly Bell.
“Serving on the Canna-Biz panel provided an opportunity for me to engage Floridians as we educate-learn-talk about marijuana for medical use and the impact of unlawful use of marijuana on minority communities,” Green-Powell said. “Additionally, it provided an opportunity to grow FAMU’s MMERI partnership and educational outreach campaign.”
NLC is a nonprofit that works to recruit, train and promote progressive political entrepreneurs of tomorrow – trendsetters, elected officials and civically-engaged leaders in business and industry.
MMERI’s mandate is to educate minorities about marijuana for medical use and the impact of the unlawful use of marijuana on diverse communities. Community engagement, education and research are integral parts of the initiative.
“The medicinal value on some of the illnesses that are plagued in our communities is worth listening to and learning about it,” Green-Powell said. “It’s an education piece and what MMERI is doing on a statewide basis. We know from the research that there are certain qualifying conditions that may very well benefit from medical marijuana. Our charge is to also educate about the wrongful use of marijuana.”
The panelists discussed the differences between cannabis, hemp and medical marijuana.
Bell, who oversees the development of a state hemp program and assists Florida DOH with the medical cannabis edibles, explained the changes introduced by the 2018 Farm Bill, which helped redefine the cannabis plant.
Historically, cannabis is a controlled substance, which means it is federally illegal, she said. The legislation allowed states to differentiate between cannabis and industrial hemp depending on the content.
“If the total THC in this plant is .03 percent or less,” Bell said, “then it is redefined as industrial hemp and it is no longer a controlled substance, which means it is federally legal.”
Thanks to state legislation, FAMU is one of the Florida entities approved for industrial hemp production in partnership with private companies.
Commissioner Dozier talked about legalization and the difficulties of marijuana.
“At this point we are between a lot of rocks and hard places,” Dozier said. “We are working with the existing confines of the law, but I also have some flexibility to push on that and look for areas that I don’t think it is working for us.