Nikki Fried slams Gov. DeSantis, Surgeon General for medical cannabis ‘disaster’
Nikki Fried blasts the medical marijuana policy pushed by Joseph Ladapo.

FRIED LADAPO
'Hurting patients every day.'

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is speaking out with sharp criticisms of the state’s medical cannabis program changes under Gov. Ron DeSantis second Surgeon General, Dr. Joseph Ladapo.

“He is really hurting patients every single day,” Fried, a medical cannabis patient and former marijuana lobbyist, told Florida Politics during an interview Wednesday in Jacksonville

Fried went on to list a number of issues where the Florida Department of Health’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use has suffered under the current Surgeon General, whom she says is nothing short of a “disaster” for the cannabis program.

Many of these complaints converged on increasing access for smaller-capital and minority growers to enter Florida’s surging cannabis space.

Fried blasted the “doubling of the fees for the Pigford plaintiffs,” with the cost of applying for a cultivation license now up to $146,000, purportedly because of the growth of the patient base of the program, which is nearing 750,000 Floridians.

“That license: still to this day we are waiting on,” Fried said of a license for a Black farmer. “It should have been handed out in 2017.”

Fried noted that given the program’s growth, many more licenses should be distributed by the state’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use, but haven’t been. Currently, 22 Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers, or companies, serve the nearly 750,000 patients in the state, a number that falls short of statutory threshold.

“We should be giving out 16 new licenses today, because with every 100,000 new patients, there should be four new licenses,” Fried emphasized. “He’s done nothing to move the program forward.”

A swath of eight new licenses were in fact issued in 2019, months into DeSantis’ term, when the medical cannabis program had just over 200,000 patients, less than a third of the current patient population. But as the program expanded during the COVID-19 pandemic and afterwards, licensure has not matched consumer demand. 

Seemingly arbitrary changes of administrative rules in the program also concern Fried as unfriendly to patients and physicians alike. 

“I keep hearing from doctors all across the state that they keep making changes to the program, which is confusing. They haven’t been supporting telehealth, which worked well during the pandemic.”

Ladapo’s predecessor as Surgeon General, Dr. Scott Rivkees, approved telemedicine for medical cannabis and other palliative substances on Mar. 17, 2020. 

That order ran through the summer of 2021, lapsing after DeSantis said the pandemic was over, in the waning months of the Rivkees era. 

Legislative efforts to codify telehealth for medical cannabis failed in 2022 despite bipartisan support.

“He’s really stifling growth for the patients and the industry,” Fried contended. “From my knowledge of this industry, they’re holding tight so that next year during Legislative Session they can come in and wipe out the four new licenses for every 100,000 patients.”

That would allow currently dominant multistate operators to continue to leverage and capitalize the patient base in a way Fried compared to a “monopoly,” though oligopoly would be the more correct term. 

“They have the money and the resources,” said Fried, to take advantage of the current “vertical integration” framework, which requires an MMTC to grow and process its own product from seed to sale.

“Look, I’ve been wanting to break up vertical. Give out more licenses. Right now, if you want to be a player in this industry, you have to bring in hundreds of millions of dollars. One, to be able to buy one of the licenses, because they’re not handing out more licenses, not going through the application process,” she said.

“All the licenses that are currently out there are the ones from the original set,” Fried added. “When you have vertical integration, minority businesses and small businesses can’t participate.”

“And you know who hurts at that point? The patients,” Fried continued. “Because they’re not seeing competition, which would then reduce the cost for the patients. And this is to protect the multi-state operators, which have the means to come in and buy these licenses.”

Indeed, a review of Florida’s MMTCs shows a sheet dominated by companies with commercial operations in legal and medical marijuana states from coast to coast, with rare exceptions. 

There was a time when Gov. DeSantis expressed concern about the marijuana “cartel” dominating Florida’s medical market. The Governor’s concern for free market dynamics in the Free State of Florida’s cannabis sphere soon enough gave way to other concerns, especially olfactory ones

“What I don’t like about it is if you go to some of these places that have done it, the stench when you’re out there, I mean, it smells so putrid,” he told reporters in Tallahassee in January, regarding the legalization of adult use cannabis, popularly called “recreational use.”

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


8 comments

  • Impeach Biden

    August 17, 2022 at 6:36 pm

    Bye bye Nikki Fried. Looks like the state of Florida has had enough of your self promoting and DeSantis attacking narrative. Start packing up the Ag office and please leave on time. Bye bye Nikki Fried.

    • Joe Corsin

      August 17, 2022 at 6:47 pm

      Bye Trump… gonna catch a felony one after they hammer the RICO case down on him good…plus various other frauds, thefts, and flim-flams. Charges out the yin yang with plenty to choose from.

      • Impeach Biden

        August 17, 2022 at 7:25 pm

        You are aware that Trump is not running for office at this time aren’t you? That is some serious TDS there? Stay on topic Corsin / Offen.

        • John Thomas

          August 19, 2022 at 5:36 pm

          Trump mini-me DeSantis wants to run. — What’s the difference?

    • John Thomas

      August 19, 2022 at 5:37 pm

      Most Floridians support Fried, just like most Floridians support re-legalizing marijuana.

      Catch a clue.

  • James R. Miles

    August 18, 2022 at 7:14 pm

    Yeah, Trump isn’t running for President again! You so funny. He has done everything but announce. Try not to be so naïve. He has lined up enough AG’s to fix the next election Unless America wants to be an authoritarian fascist state, Democracy will win! Trump belongs in jail and if their is a GOD, he will be!

  • Lee Roller

    August 19, 2022 at 3:17 pm

    Dr Lapdog is nothing more than a DeSantis puppet.

    If you look closely you can greasy Ron’s hand stuffed up Lapdog’s evacuation chute operating all the controls.

  • Jeffrey Brookover

    August 21, 2022 at 8:28 am

    Don’t forget the over 300,000 veteran patients that have to abide by the Cartels’ rules and regulations. Year Old, Over Dried, Molded Flower is still going around after so-called testing! This is almost five years later, and we still can’t get or afford what they sell, If it were actually cured cannabis. I have filed complaints with the State attorney general’s office, the BBB, and Nikki Fried’s office to NO AVAIL. It’s a disgrace! They do not CARE! It’s all about the $$$ not patients!

Comments are closed.


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