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SPECIAL TO THE FLORIDA COURIER

TALLAHASSEE – Is use of marijuana legal in Florida? What is medical marijuana? How do I get some?

Those are but a few of the questions circulating among Black Floridians doing a confusing time of statewide marijuana ballot initiatives, laws, and regulations.

Who can answer?

However, now, there’s finally a dependable source of information coming from a reliable source: Florida A&M University’s Medical Marijuana Education and Research Initiative.

MMERI, located on the campus of Florida’s largest historically Black college or university, is focused on educating the state’s diverse minority communities about medical marijuana and the consequences of illegal use of marijuana.

Funding for the organization is provided by the Florida Department of Health at the direction of the Florida Legislature.

MMERI’s mandate from the state legislature is clear: to “educate Florida’s diverse minority communities about medical marijuana and the impact of the unlawful use of marijuana on minority communities.”

How it works

Florida allows for the use of medical marijuana and low-THC cannabis by qualified patients as certified by a qualified physician. There are approximately 2,000 physicians certified to recommend medical marijuana in the state of Florida.

Medical marijuana does include THC and will give the user the feeling of being “high.” LowTHC cannabis does not result in the feeling of being “high.”

“Illegal marijuana” is marijuana that is used or obtained outside of Florida’s laws allowing purchase and use of medical marijuana. Marijuana that is not purchased from a licensed medical marijuana treatment center is illegal, as is marijuana that is used by individuals who are not qualified patients.

Possession of more than 20 grams of illegal marijuana is still a felony in the state of Florida. Possession of less than 20 grams is a first-degree misdemeanor.

Medical effects

The benefits of medical marijuana are well-known. It provides relief from chronic pain, helps to alleviate nausea and vomiting, eases tremors from Parkinsons and reduces the numbers of seizures suffered. It has been shown to be helpful with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and HIV/ AIDS, among other diseases.

The qualifying conditions for medical marijuana use include cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, chronic pain, PTSD, and HIV/ AIDS, among others.

Why FAMU?

Given the university’s historical role in educating non-White populations, MMERI’s supporters say FAMU is in a unique position to educate Florida’s diverse populations about medical marijuana.

“The beneficial use of marijuana is one area we know in which minority populations haven’t truly benefited to the extent which we know they can it they should,” said FAMU President Dr. Larry Robinson in a speech announcing MMERI’s establishment.

“We are going to make sure that we are done with all of this, that is one problem where equity is established all across the state of Florida.”

As a research institution, FAMU offers a platform with the resources to study and understand the science of medical marijuana from different language and cultural perspectives. FAMU faculty are in a position to provide original as well as ongoing research studies.

Coming to the people

MMERI will maintain an interactive website, provide a newsletter, and conduct what it calls “community engagement.” MMERI staff and regional partners are expected to be visible and active throughout all areas of Florida.

The organization has rolled out a statewide campaign to include community forums, focus groups, speaker/listener bureaus, workshops and other activities. Floridians with questions can have a face-to-face conversation about medical marijuana at regional forums scheduled around the state of Florida.

The first forum covering the Central Florida area will be held on June 11, with one following on June 27 in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area; one on July 9 in Pensacola; one on July 18 in Jacksonville; and other to be determined in the Miami Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach County areas.

At the various forums, attendees can expect to receive information about qualifying conditions of medical marijuana; the necessary steps to access medical marijuana; the consequences of illegal use of marijuana; the socialization of legal marijuana; criminalization and decriminalization.

Cynthia Hughes-Harris, Ph.D. is the Research Chair for MMERI. She is also dean of FAMU’s School of Allied Health Sciences. Peter Harris is MMERI’s executive director.

For more information on MMERI, contact Angela Hardiman, Public Affairs Liaison (Community Engagement) at 850-561- 2522, or email her at angela.hardiman@famu.edu.

For more information on medical marijuana, contact the Office of Medical Marijuana Use at www.knowthefactsmmj.com; or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), www.cdc.gov.

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