By Carma Henry
Florida A&M University (FAMU) has a unique opportunity to educate Floridians about medical marijuana and its use as an alternative health remedy. In 2016, the Florida Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative, also known as Amendment 2, was approved by 72 percent of the state’s voters. The legislature approved funding for FAMU to “educate minorities about marijuana for medical use and about the impact of the unlawful use of marijuana on minority communities.”
FAMU’s Marijuana Education and Research Initiative was established as the foundation for a repository of information about marijuana and a leader in research on the subject of medical marijuana. The initiative strives to educate Florida’s minority communities about the availability and uses of medical marijuana and to help these communities understand systemic problems associated with the selective enforcement of marijuana laws and the consequences of the illicit use of marijuana.
Peter Harris, J.D., is the director of the FAMU Marijuana Education and Research Initiative. He served the what industry as a strategic advisor to firms seeking a license from the Florida Office of Medical Marijuana Use to grow marijuana, manufacture medicine and dispense products for over a year. Prior to that, he provided consulting services to organizations seeking to impact the development of the industry in Florida.
According to Harris, FAMU has an opportunity to play a vital role in the state’s development and use of medical marijuana.
“We want to impact the health of Florida’s communities through our education and research efforts,” said Harris. “We also want to influence economic and behavioral issues, while engaging Florida’s diverse minority communities in the changes that are sure to come.”
Harris also stated that, “Our colleges and schools ranging from pharmacy, education and allied health to our institutes of public health, agricultural and food sciences as well as psychology and social sciences are integral not only to the growth and development of the nascent industry, but FAMU is also producing the future workforce.”
Cynthia Hughes-Harris, Ph.D., dean of FAMU’s School of Allied Health Sciences explained that FAMU has received state funds to address the many critical and relevant questions related to the use of marijuana through the interdisciplinary efforts of faculty and students.
“As marijuana use has become legalized in many arenas, particularly for medicinal purposes, more questions have arisen as to how marijuana can and should be used,” said Hughes-Harris. She added, “These questions are aimed at multiple populations, but they are particularly important to marijuana use in minority communities.
FAMU is particularly qualified to address these issues due to the talents and skills of the faculty, as researchers and as educators, combined with our understanding of our target communities throughout the state of Florida.”
Additionally, the University also launched a major research initiative to award mini-grants to support faculty and graduate student research projects. Their work will help to establish FAMU as a national source of information regarding marijuana’s impact on minority communities.
As part of the roll out, FAMU has hired Salter Mitchell Public Relations to help craft the messaging that will launch the statewide media campaign. The University has also collected data and conducted focus groups with the various minority communities it is charged with informing.