Friday may be the getaway day before Memorial Day Weekend, but Republicans aren’t letting Nikki Fried get away with the last word in response to a court case involving Florida’s marijuana industry.
Both the Lieutenant Governor and the Republican Party of Florida offered terse but like-minded commentaries on Fried’s unhappiness with a Supreme Court decision upholding vertical integration in the cannabis space.
“Former marijuana lobbyist (Nikki Fried) is mad that the Florida Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the states medical marijuana law? Shocking,” tweeted Lt. Gov. Jeanette M. Núñez.
The Republican Party of Florida went further, saying Fried “is a hypocrite.”
“As a pot lobbyist, she pushed for this legislation and as Agriculture Commissioner her fiancé and family profit from it,” they said.
The ad hominem attacks were rooted in association to some degree. Fried’s fiance’, Jake Bergmann, was the founder and CEO of Surterra Wellness, a multi-state operator with a robust Florida presence. Fried’s sister, Jennifer Fried, is a regional sales manager for Muv. The Commissioner is personally staked in the cannabis industry with stock in one medical marijuana treatment company.
The Republican reactions did not respond to the substance of Fried’s critique, which was consistent with her previous criticism of vertical integration as a candidate and Commissioner.
“This ruling by our Republican-dominated Supreme Court further entrenches Florida’s unfair, unconstitutional medical marijuana system put in place by our Republican-dominated Legislature. This status quo helps absolutely no one except the 22 medical marijuana companies in Florida at the expense of patients,” Fried said Friday.
“Unlike hemp’s open, horizontal market in Florida that provides opportunity to everyone, Florida’s medical marijuana industry will remain closed-off, restricting freedom of opportunity, weakening the free market, and leading to ever-higher prices for patients. If we’re applying the law to medical marijuana, then it’s past time to grant the licenses that Black farmers and our citrus industry deserve and the law requires,” Fried added.
Regardless of the political back and forth, Fried’s position on vertical integration is academic, given the Supreme Court’s unambiguous assertion of legislative prerogative to regulate the industry voters approved in 2016 with the ratification of that year’s Amendment 2.
The 54-page ruling offered a sobering message to the Florigrown challenge to the law’s implementation, upholding the current structure of the booming cannabis industry, which compels participants to cultivate, process, and sell their own in-house product and disallows the more freewheeling approaches in other state-level cannabis markets.
The court rejected the lower courts’ contention that there was a conflict between 2016’s Amendment 2, which authorized the medical cannabis program, and statute passed governing it, saying “the Amendment expressly left the Legislature its authority to enact the legislative framework.”
The only recourse for Fried may be in a ballot challenge to Gov. Ron DeSantis, but one recent poll suggests she will have a hard enough time clearing the Primary. A survey released this week by St. Pete Polls shows Fried behind former Gov. Charlie Crist, 55% to 22%.