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Florida Cabinet, medical marijuana and the intersection of politics and health

There was an intersection of politics and health on the latest Fried On Business show when my niece, Nikki Fried, and Dr. Michelle Weiner came on board to talk about medical marijuana and other topics.

Nikki is running as a Democrat for the post of Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Yes, that is a mouthful, and it sounds mundane. But nothing could be farther from the truth.

It is one of only four Cabinet positions in the state government. It has a budget of $1.9 billion, and it oversees diverse areas ranging from agriculture, the environment, water and energy to all types of consumer services – and even the state’s concealed weapon permit process.

“I’m running because I think we’re broken up in Tallahassee. We’ve had 20 years of the administration of one party who hasn’t been watching out for the little guy,” she said.

Nikki said she’s seen that play out first-hand with the state’s implementation of medical marijuana. Government, she said, has stepped in the way of allowing patients to get access to their medicine.

“I saw an opportunity to take my activity, take my actions and my passion, and cross the state. Get my message out, put my name on a ballot to get to Tallahassee and make a difference,” she said.

Nikki said Washington’s recent emphasis on tariffs has been atrocious for Florida’s food producers, be they farmers, fisherman and the like.

First it was NAFTA, then tariffs, and now a trade war with China.

“What it’s doing is putting all of this pressure on our farmers – the people who are providing fresh-from-Florida produce. And it’s a security issue,” she said.

Nikki said the office of Florida Commissioner of Agriculture is influential enough to be heard in Washington when measures like these are being debated.

The office’s administration of the state’s concealed weapon permit process was in the news recently when it came to light that hundreds of permit applicants did not receive appropriate background checks.

Nikki, a concealed weapon permit holder herself, said she would ensure that the laws already on the books are being followed.

She also advocates continuing education for CWP holders as a condition of permit renewal.

Now, I have both a concealed weapon permit and a medical marijuana card, which I recently learned puts me in something of a legal limbo – marijuana still being illegal at the federal level.

“I can tell you that, as commissioner, one of my executive orders will be from Day 1 is that if you in fact have a concealed weapon permit and a medical marijuana card, you are not in jeopardy of losing either and/or not getting it renewed,” she said.

Nikki also gave an insightful overview of Florida’s medical marijuana implementation law and how it intersects with community standards and private property rights.

Click here to listen to the entire conversation with Nikki Fried, candidate for Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services

Clearing the air

While we’re on the subject of medical marijuana, Dr. Michelle Weiner offered her expertise to clear up some confusion about the issue.

As part of Spine and Wellness Center of America, she is working with Florida International University on an opioid study, taking patients who are on opioids and offering them CBD and cannabis. The hope is they will be able to reduce their use of opioids.

We’re fortunate here in Florida, Dr. Weiner said. Medical marijuana is legal, and CBD (cannabidiol) or hemp oil is legal in all 50 states.

But the quality is very important. It must be third-party lab tested to ensure that the cannabinoid profile is consistent with what’s listed on the bottle, she said.

Cannabinoids are the active ingredients in the plant that have medicinal benefits, said Dr. Weiner. CBD and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) are the most well-known. Because THC can produce a high, most people assume that all marijuana causes people to get high. but there are ways to use the plant that avoid the psychoactivity while yielding medical benefits, she said.

The ratio of CBD to THC is important, Dr. Weiner said. Some patients need more of one or the other, and that’s why it should be administered by a trained cannabis physician.

“However, we don’t learn this in medical school. So most of this is self-taught, and I have enough patients now that are on the registry that I’m able to get good data. Not just anecdotal, but to actually see what’s going on in South Florida, how patients are improving, and what medications are helping them,” she said.

In essence, you don’t have to get high to get help.

Dr. Weiner said patients often find her through referrals. It could be from a friend who is successfully using cannabis or from a doctor who is himself inexperienced with the treatment option.

“It’s important to see a physician who is experienced and passionate about it because it can be a frustrating period at first to figure out the right dose, the right ratio, the right way to use it,” she said.

“But, once you’re able to work with the physician, you’ll find it becomes a standard of care – as if you’re taking your regular medications.”

I like to think of it as taking a daily vitamin, and Dr. Weiner said my analogy is spot-on. Turns out, our bodies already produce their own marijuana-like molecules for the purpose of maintaining our physical and mental health. At times, one neurotransmitter or another may need some outside help.

This was a fascinating interview, and we covered a lot more ground, including:

– Administration options, including vaping and tinctures.

– The use of medical marijuana in conjunction with other healthy lifestyle choices.

Click here to listen to the full interview with Dr. Michelle Weiner.

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