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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami) – Florida has a new Director of Cannabis.
On Wednesday, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried announced that she has hired Holly Bell from Tennessee to take the role.
Bell will handle both medical marijuana policies and those for hemp.
Bell comes to Florida from Nashville, Tennessee where she helped start up their industrial hemp program. She has a degree in agricultural economics and years of experience in the finance and marijuana industries.
“Cannabis is an incredible opportunity for our state, which is why I’ve appointed a Cannabis Director to oversee this top priority going forward. Holly was instrumental in helping start up Tennessee’s industrial hemp program, where she heard from farmers who needed an alternative for the future,” said Fried. “She brought people together to make that vision a reality, and she’ll do the same here in Florida.”
WATCH: CBS4’s Jim DeFede Discusses Holly Bell’s Hiring By Nikki Fried
Bell will work closely with the Department’s Division of Plant Industry on developing Florida’s hemp industry, including the production, processing, inspecting, and manufacturing of industrial hemp, and will assist in implementing the new Farm Bill as it relates to industrial hemp. She will also monitor the actions of the Florida Department of Health as it relates to medical marijuana, and will work with the Division of Food Safety on implementing the forthcoming edibles rules.
“After eighty years of stalled progress, we can finally begin putting cannabis to work and realize its full potential for farmers, consumers, and patients here in Florida. That’s exactly what I did in Tennessee – bringing together farmers, investors, and government to help build an infrastructure to prepare for that state’s hemp bill and cannabis industry, and drive their economy,” said Bell.
Florida’s medical marijuana industry is projected to have a $1.6 billion economic impact and create more jobs than manufacturing in Florida by 2020. Studies have shown that Florida has the potential to become the biggest medical marijuana market in the nation by 2021.
Research also shows that medical marijuana laws can lead to a 25% lower annual mean opioid overdose mortality rate.