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TALLAHASSEE, FLA. 1/7/19-Incoming Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried thanks supporters during her inaugural celebration Monday night in Tallahassee. COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO

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Nikki Fried creates new position of ‘Director of Cannabis’

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried on Friday said she has now created a position of “Director of Cannabis” under the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

“We will be naming a Director of Cannabis in the coming weeks,” she said in a media availability after Friday’s Cabinet meeting. She is the only Democrat on the panel.

“That individual will oversee all of the different parts of the medical marijuana program that the Department oversees currently.”

The Department of Health, under Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, largely regulates the drug through its Office of Medical Marijuana Use.

The Agriculture Department, through its Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement, has been administering the Domestic Marijuana Eradication Program, a “federally funded system that directly supports local, state and county law enforcement agencies in the detection, dismantling and eradication of domestically grown marijuana.”

But its food experts are supposed to oversee “processing requirements” of marijuana for edible consumption, its website says.

Fried, a lawyer, had been a medical marijuana lobbyist before her election. Florida voters statewide approved, by 71 percent, a constitutional amendment allowing medical marijuana in 2016.

The new directorship, she added, “also means a full movement forward on to instituting hemp here in our state and moving forward on a rulemaking process in accordance with the Farm Bill that was passed and signed in 2018.”

Hemp, outlawed in the 1930s, is a member of the cannabis plant family to which marijuana belongs; it was cultivated by humans for centuries for its fiber to make rope and clothing, among many other uses. It’s also used to produce CBD oil, often now taken to treat pain and relieve inflammation.

In post swearing-in remarks she made to fellow Democrats Tuesday afternoon, Fried vowed to “push to expand patient access to medical marijuana for the sick and suffering patients” and to “ensure Florida is ready to become a national leader on hemp—an alternative crop that can help our environment and strengthen our economy.”

Fried also recently spoke of her personal interest in the issue with Cannabis Wire: Her mother was diagnosed with cancer a week before the election. 

“It’s scary to think about that so many of our patients even when they have access to any kind of affordable access, it’s not just having a dispensary down the street, it’s making sure, because health insurance doesn’t cover this, that they can financially afford to get this medicine that they need,” she told the website.

Jeff Sharkey, who along with Taylor Biehl created the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida, said Fried’s creation of a Director of Cannabis “is a very positive move.”

It “underscores her commitment to keeping her campaign promise that she would be a strong and vocal champion for citizens who voted overwhelmingly to ensure medical marijuana is accessible — and affordable  — for patients throughout Florida,” he said.

“Coupled with early positive signals from the DeSantis administration and legislative leadership, patients could expect to see the  program realize its full potential,” added Sharkey, also a longtime Tallahassee lobbyist.

___

Jacksonville correspondent A.G. Gancarski contributed to this post.

Written By

Jim Rosica covers state government from Tallahassee for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Thomas Ettorre iv

    January 11, 2019 at 1:49 pm

    Its things like this why we send letters to the governor like this one.

    Governor Ron DeSantis,

    First off I would like to congratulate you on being elected to our great state! This email is going to be on the topic of the unconstitutional implementation of amendment 2 regarding the smokeable use of medical marijuana.

    Florida Department of Health; Celeste Philip, M.D., in her official capacity as Secretary of Health for the State of Florida; Office of Medical Marijuana Use; and Christian Bax, in
    vs
    People United for Medical Marijuana; Florida for Care, Inc.; Diana Dodson; and Catherine Jordan.

    As you know the will of the 71% of voters voted yes to this. I was one of them. Under the Scott administration, we saw continued attempts to block any attempts to make patient’s access easier and more cost-efficient as the dispensaries would not have to package the medicine to the same extent, I am sure Nikki Freed already brought some of this to your attention. I urge you as your constituent and a medical marijuana patient to help guide the courts to implement the will of the voters. I have been watching you on the Florida channel and heard that you would have more information about the direction your office plans to take but have heard the same from you while on the campaign trail. Please help us with obtaining more cost-efficient delivery methods.

    Thanks so much for your time!

    Your concerned constituent,

  2. Cheech and Chong

    January 11, 2019 at 4:30 pm

    We would like to apply for the job of head pothead for the state of Florida. Pot should be available for everyone and we had tried to make it available everywhere. We will work hard, not really, to bring pot to everyone who wants it in Florida. There will be High Times in the sunshine state if you hire us. I look forward to, cough, working with you to bring a higher state of being to your state.

    Cheech and Chong

  3. Cheech and Chong

    January 11, 2019 at 4:35 pm

    Nikki – “Fried”….. I get it.

    Chong

  4. Jim

    January 18, 2019 at 9:27 am

    I am certainly no fan of Desantis but he seems to be on the right side on this one. Now, how about recreational MJ, and expanded Medicaid?

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