Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried formally endorsed a bill poised for a vote in Congress that would present a pathway to cannabis legalization.
“With the MORE Act before you this week, you have the opportunity to carry out the will of the people: decriminalizing cannabis and moving equity and our economy forward,” Fried wrote in a letter to the Florida congressional delegation.
Fried, a former lobbyist for the industry before her 2018 campaign, issued a letter from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in support for the legislation, poised for a House floor vote this week.
It is not likely that the legislation has legs in the Senate, where 60 votes would be required to pass it, an impossibility in the split chamber.
Nonetheless, the Commissioner urged legislators in the House to back this “comprehensive cannabis reform package that would decriminalize cannabis and take long-overdue steps to address the racial injustices of prohibition.”
Fried cited the 1972 National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse report calling for the decriminalization of cannabis possession in the United States, a key document whose findings were “neglected” by President Richard Nixon, who “instead began the decades long War on Drugs that continues to ruin lives and perpetuate racial injustice in all corners of our country still today.”
“The racial disparities of enforcement when it comes to cannabis prohibition can be seen in Florida, where 42,153 people were arrested for misdemeanor cannabis possession in 2017. While Black residents make up only 17% of Florida’s population, nearly half of those arrested were Black,” Fried remarked.
“As a member of Florida’s Board of Executive Clemency and a former public defender, I have witnessed the devastating effects that minor drug offenses can have on people’s lives — from immediate financial damages incurred to arrest records that result in being locked out of opportunities for gainful employment, housing, and educational opportunities that hurt our communities and economy as a whole,” Fried added.
Fried has staked much of her political career on pro-cannabis messaging, and this latest statement shows that she isn’t backing down from her push for marijuana reform.