Dalton Tevlin/Sports Director
When Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried took office in 2018, one of her chief priorities was weed.
She created an 18 member medical marijuana advisory committee, bringing together lawyers, medical cannabis providers, and even the CEO of Trulieve, Florida’s largest network of dispensaries.
“I’m proud to establish the medical marijuana advisory committee to help expand patient access, and to advance and modernize policies to move Florida into the future of medical marijuana,” said Fried in a press release.
The committee also includes doctors like Michelle Weiner, a pain management therapist,
Weiner conducts studies at both Florida International University and Nova Southeastern University, where her team substitutes opioids for medical cannabis in 175 opioid patients.
Weiner’s studies are targeted towards opioid users who used the highly addictive drug specifically for pain. The study has been going on for two years with patient check-ins every three months.
The study has yielded positive results. The majority of patients were either able to completely replace their opioids or reduce their intake, according to Weiner.
Along with their pain, Weiner said the medical cannabis helped patients with their trouble sleeping and anxiety.
Weiner will use her knowledge as a wellness doctor and researcher to help the committee implement medical marijuana in Florida.
“People who don’t know anything about the plant are making all the laws,” said Weiner, who feels the information on marijuana should come from people in the industry.
The committee will come together bimonthly and discuss various issues such as farming regulations, labels on edibles, child safety, and accessibility.
There’s been a moral change in the public’s view when it comes to marijuana over the last 20 years, but many lawmakers and doctors are still hesitant.
Marijuana is currently classified as a schedule 1 drug by the federal government, the same designation as heroin.
Weiner blames the designation for marijuana, along with interest of big pharma, for the push back on medical marijuana.
“These doctors didn’t learn about marijuana in medical school,” said Weiner. She feels the people in charge of marijuana legislation and research are not educated on cannabis.
Weiner wants to focus on the medicinal benefits it can offer people and is content with the idea of recreational marijuana, as long as it’s done safely.
Weiner wants to erase stigmas and get people to understand they “can use this plant without getting high.”
The stigma around young people using marijuana is that many of them abuse THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis. It is the counterpart to CBD, which has seen a spike in popularity and is sold over-the-counter as a “wonder-drug” that won’t get you high.The relationship between young adults and marijuana is one Weiner describes as a “double-edged sword”.
While young people find many benefits from marijuana, some are exposed to the most potent forms of cannabis early on. Forms of cannabis such as concentrate, sometimes called “oil” or “dabs”, contain high levels of THC, which can stunt development in people under 25.
Weiner has an emotional stake in this fight. She has seen the harm opioids can do if mishandled. Her grandmother passed away due to complications with an increased prescription of Tramadol, a popular opioid.
As a pain management doctor, Weiner always looks for holistic solutions for her patients. Medical cannabis, primarily CBD is a medicine that her patients have seen great benefits from.
There are many people, including veterans that see quality-of-life changes when they substitute opioids for medical marijuana.
Jeffrey DeMond, a 20 year Navy veteran, is one of those beneficiaries. Like many veterans, DeMond left the Navy with a wide range of issues.
He started taking opioids after surgeries on his ankle , bicep and other areas. Soon after he was addicted.
Opioids, in addition to the wide range of psychotropic drugs to treat his post-traumatic stress disorder, made DeMond look at other options for medication. He began using cannabis to replace many of the prescription medications the Veteran Affairs clinic was prescribing him.
DeMond found that cannabis was the most effective form of medicine for his pain management and other stress-related issues.
Aware of the largest opioid crisis the United States has ever seen, an issue affecting fellow veterans, he decided to make a difference.
DeMond started a non-profit called The Grateful Veteran, which helps veterans obtain medical cannabis cards in Florida.
So far DeMond’s foundation has either partially or completely funded 53 veteran’s medical marijuana license. Like Weiner, DeMond has seen first hand the benefits of this industry.
“It’s very empowering to be in control of my own medicine,” said DeMond. “Instead of the VA telling me exactly how much I need to take”