Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried was among those on a launch call Thursday held by WISE Florida, a group of working moms advocating for legalized adult-use cannabis.
While medical marijuana is permitted in Florida with physician recommendation, so-called recreational pot is not. And even the medical product is under threat, with legislation pending to cap THC at levels below those commonly found in today’s commercially available medical product.
Fried, described at times as “the Queen of Green,” is the most pro-cannabis statewide leader in Florida history.
As she has since she launched her political career, Fried made a strong case for the economic, practical, and moral case to legalize cannabis as a new group of canna-advocates launched formally.
Fried, speaking in support of the group, acknowledged her history in the industry, but described her “passion” for medical cannabis as having flowered after talking to patients who, time and time again, saw their lives improved by the plant’s palliative properties.
People need “affordable access,” Fried said, in part “so they are not going into the illegal marketplace.”
Educating the public and lawmakers is essential, Fried added, especially given THC cap proposals are evidence of “moving backward” on the issue.
Fried is expected to run in 2022 against Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has allowed smokable flower but who opposes adult-use for recreational purposes. She urged DeSantis to make his opposition to the cap proposal known.
Fried said DeSantis has been “silent on this issue.”
“I don’t know what the Governor will do if the bill passes,” she said, noting that “horse-trading” often happens at the end of the Legislative Session.
Fried added that the THC cap would hurt patients, including those dealing with cancer and chemo treatments.
“I have not heard one bit of testimony from a patient who has said ‘I have had too much medical marijuana and I need you to cap this,'” she said.
Fried added that if DeSantis signed the bill imposing THC caps, he would be a “one-term Governor” and that Republicans would lose seats if the bill moving in the House became law.
And as the issue will background a potential race for Governor, especially assuming Fried becomes the Democratic nominee, odds are good that it will be on the 2022 ballot.
Make It Legal Florida, a committee pushing to legalize adult use cannabis via the Florida Constitution, has roughly 70% of the verified signed petitions needed for ballot access.
Fried was just one speaker on the call from the public sector.
Director of Cannabis Holly Bell noted the importance of countering “70 plus years of misinformation” and helping the public “know what they need to understand about cannabis.”
Sally Kent Peebles, a lawyer specializing in cannabis issues, and a WISE Florida co-founder, described the challenges of regulatory compliance, licensure, and other strict regulations imposed on the industry that create a regulated market.
In Florida, the medical market is regulated, but the “underground” market offers a host of dangers that are a consequence of prohibitionist policies.
Moriah Barnhart, another co-founder, said the group of working moms is nonpartisan and devoted to “sensible cannabis reform.” The group is open to everyone, she added, not just working moms.
The group looks to support policies that advance the group’s core values, she said.
Unsound marijuana politics, said co-founder Ivette Petkovich, have “held people down,” some for a lifetime. From criminal justice and other perspectives, the defense lawyer said prohibition doesn’t make sense.