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Florida's First Director Of Cannabis Talks Smokable Medical Marijuana, CBD

Holly Bell, Florida's first cannabis director.
News Service Florida
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Governor Ron DeSantis signed his first piece of legislation earlier this week: a bill  allowing smokable medical marijuana in the state of Florida. It's been one of the top priorities of his administration.

And Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried has also been vocal about her plans to expand medical marijuana in the Sunshine State. She recently appointed a new director of cannabis, Holly Bell, who will oversee the state’s growing hemp industry and the massive market of Cannabidiol, or CBD, products across the state. Some cannabis activists have  said Bell lacks experience.

Bell joined Sundial to talk about the future of medical marijuana, zoning regulations for medical marijuana businesses and what she hopes to achieve in her new position. 

WLRN: What does smokable medical marijuana being passed mean for patients in Florida as of this moment?

BELL: What will happen next is the Department of Health will make some rules and guidelines for doctors and then it should be available to the patients.

What do you tend to hear from people about what they want to see in Florida or what their biggest concern is?

That there is a free flow of information from agencies to consumers to people applying for licenses and access to the monetary system -- the financial services system.

CALLER - RICHARD IN MIAMI: It seems as though the City of Miami has not done maybe any planning or much planning in terms of zoning for different facilities that would develop with the legalization of cannabis. And by that I mean retail wholesale and grow houses. Is that the case?

It is left to the local communities to develop zoning and rules and regulations about locations. That really is left up to the local governments and that was the choice of our state legislators.

WLRN: Have you heard any concerns about the local governments' approach on this and what kind of questions they're asking about how they should handle this?

So I do hear some concerns about that. Finding a place to open a dispensary by some of the licensees is a challenge. They can go through two to three locations sometimes and be denied for various reasons. And then there are some areas where they're just not allowed to open shops.

The CBD market in Florida has exploded in recent years and that's raised some concerns. Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried wants a seal of approval on all CBD products. Can you speak to how that industry will be better regulated and just remind people what CBD products are?

What we're really are facing here in Florida is a time lag issue [because] the federal farm bill [which redefined what CBD is] was signed the last week of December... So Florida has not done that redefinition yet and we're in the process right now... of getting that done. What the commissioner's concern is first and foremost is the safety of our consumers and [making] sure that they're buying a product that is giving them what is on the label. Her vision for a hemp program in the state of Florida is one that provides a resource where they can verify through testing that what they are taking out of this product and getting from it is what is actually on the label.

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Alejandra Martinez is the associate producer for WLRN&rsquo's Sundial. Her love for radio started at her mother’s beauty shop where she noticed that stories are all around her - important stories to tell.