Tallahassee, Fla. – Today, Commissioner Nicole “Nikki” Fried announced her appointment of Holly Bell as the Director of Cannabis. Bell’s selection comes after a national search and interviews with multiple finalists for the position.
In her role as Director of Cannabis, Bell will oversee the development of rules, work directly with scientific experts, and ensure Commissioner Fried’s vision for cannabis in Florida continues moving forward. 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. Bell will also work closely with the Commissioner’s industrial hemp and medical marijuana advisory committees, members of which will be appointed in the coming weeks.
“More than two years ago, Floridians overwhelmingly voted for medical marijuana. While previous administrations obstructed access and denied the will of the people, today is a brand new day for Florida,” said Commissioner Nikki Fried. “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. She brought people together to make that vision a reality, and she’ll do the same here in Florida. Holly’s experience in finance and knowledge of managing programs make her a bold choice – and the right choice – to help build the future of cannabis in Florida.”
“I’m grateful to Commissioner Fried for the opportunity to help literally grow Florida’s future,” said Holly Bell. “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.”
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. The passage of the Farm Bill brings the opportunity to grow industrial hemp, which has billions in potential economic opportunity for the Florida agriculture community as an alternative crop of the future. Research also shows that medical marijuana laws can lead to a 25% lower annual mean opioid overdose mortality rate.
After a career in banking and financial services, Holly Bell consulted on cannabis business issues in numerous states. Bell worked to build the infrastructure to support the creation of Tennessee’s cannabis industry, following passage of that state’s industrial hemp legislation. A native of Indiana with family roots in northeast Florida, Bell earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics from Purdue University.