As legal cannabis use grows more main­ stream, we’re seeing alterna琀ves for re­ alizing the health benefits of the plant itself. Emerging from the medicinal and recrea琀onal aspects of cannabis is a trend to consume parts of the raw plant as food ingredients, mixing them into ev­ erything from entrees to side dishes to snacks to drinks.

Joline Rivera is the founder of Chicago­ based culinary cannabis brand Kitchen­, as well as a cer琀fied food product called Red Belly Honey, which is naturally infused by honeybees with CBD [cannabidiol] from hemp and is legal to use in Florida. For her, ea琀ng cannabis is healthy and nutri琀ous.

“The leaves of the cannabis plant are rich in an琀oxidants, polyphenols, an琀bio琀cs, along with cancer reducing and an琀­in­ flammatory compounds,” says Rivera. “There are a lot of benefits to the raw cannabis leaves, stems and stalks. I like to have cannabis greens in my smoothies and my salads every day if I can.”

Clinical Nutri琀on Specialist Abbey Fol­ som of Tallahassee, and qualified medical marijuana physician Dr. Genester Wil­ son­King of Lake Mary, Fla., also are en­ thusias琀c proponents of consuming cannabis and/or CBD as dietary supple­ ments. While it’s illegal for private cit­ izens to grow cannabis or possess the plant’s leaves in Florida, they say those with medical marijuana cards can s琀ll consume cannabis legally in other ways.

“You can drop a small bud into a cup of hot water to make tea. The water won’t be hot enough to cause the non­intoxi­ ca琀ng THCA [Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid] in the bud to become THC [tetra­ hydrocannabinol], which is the cannabi­ noid that can lead to impairment,” explained Dr. Wilson­King, who is vice president of the Society of Cannabis Cli­ nicians and sits on the board of directors of Doctors for Cannabis Regula琀on and the Special Advisory Board for ACHEM (Associa琀on for Cannabis Health Equity and Medicine).

Folsom, who supports her clients using medical cannabis, advocates for using hemp seeds in cooking, a prac琀ce that goes back thousands of years in Hindi and Indian culture.

“I see the hemp seed as a perfectly bal­ anced food. It’s about 25% protein, 25% fat and 38% carbohydrates. So, the in­ credible amount of fiber with that also makes it perfect because the carbs and the fiber balance out to about a net one or two grams of carbohydrates. To me, that is nutri琀onally sound,” Folsom says.

You don’t have to be a medical marijuana pa琀ent in Florida to consume hemp­in­ fused CBD products, though edibles with THC may be obtained only at medical marijuana treatment centers with a qual­ ified physician’s recommenda琀on.

Visit to watch MMERI’s Conversations on Cannabis Virtual Forum on YouTube featuring Joline Rivera, Abbey Folsom, and Dr. Genester Wilson-King. For more information on medical marijuana and to sign up for the MMERI newsletter, go to