The Florida Democrat who promised to "legalize weed" if elected governor owns a stake in a marijuana dispensary worth thousands of dollars.
Florida commissioner of agriculture Nikki Fried holds more than $130,000 of stock in cannabis dispensary Harvest Health and Recreation Inc., according to her most recent financial disclosure. The dispensary was acquired in October 2021 by Trulieve, the nation's most profitable medical marijuana company, which sells cannabis in 117 locations in Florida. Fried confirmed her stake in the cannabis dispensary during a June 2021 interview, shortly after launching her gubernatorial campaign. At the time, Fried denied that her dispensary holdings posed a conflict of interest, since her office did not "regulate [the] marijuana space."
Fried, a former medical marijuana lobbyist, has fought to advance marijuana interests throughout her career. Fried’s pro-pot platform helped her win the agriculture commissioner's seat in 2018. The following year, her office lobbied for a bill legalizing hemp, a cannabis plant stripped of the majority of its psychoactive component. Fried handed out nearly 800 hemp cultivation licenses, including at least one to a firm that counted her former fiancée as an investor.
Florida legalized medical marijuana in 2015. Fried, who holds a medical marijuana card herself, championed the cause. She continues to advocate for legal recreational marijuana for all adults. Florida lawmakers have attempted a variety of recreational marijuana legalization efforts, including a bill proposed by state house Democrats to legalize recreational marijuana, which died in March. The state Supreme Court in 2021 rejected two proposed ballot amendments to the state constitution aimed at expanding marijuana access.
Gov. Ron DeSantis's (R., Fla.) campaign spokeswoman Lindsey Curnutte said Fried is "pushing her own interests ahead of what’s best for the people of Florida."
"This is a classic example of Democrat disingenuousness," Curnutte told the Washington Free Beacon. "It has nothing to do with freedom or democracy, but rather it's all personal and political."
Fried is vying for the Democratic nomination against former Florida governor Charlie Crist (D.), who shares her stance on marijuana legalization. Fried is trailing Crist by a large margin, according to St. Pete Polls’s latest survey. Whichever candidate emerges from the Aug. 23 primary will face DeSantis in November. A Real Clear Politics average of polls suggests DeSantis would prevail over either Democratic challenger.
This is not the first time Fried’s business interests have gotten her in hot water. In 2021, the Florida Commission on Ethics reprimanded Fried for failing to disclose $400,000 in lobbying income.
Fried is set to release her Fiscal Year 2021 financial disclosures by Sept. 1. Her campaign did not respond to a request for comment.