While it was no secret Fort Lauderdale-based lawyer Nikki Fried was going to run as a Democrat for Commissioner of Agriculture, she officially launched her campaign Monday morning with a video announcement.
A longtime advocate for expanding patients' access to medical marijuana, her video focused largely on that issue as well as the Department of Agriculture's role in background checks for concealed carry permits.
"There is no clearer example of our broken government than medical marijuana and this deadly weapon," Fried says in the video, over images of an assault rifle being fired in slow motion. "One helps sick and dying Floridians and is over-regulated and the other one is used to terrorize our schools and our communities and is barely regulated at all."
However, many don't typically think of the Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services having direct authority over medical marijuana. Since voters overwhelmingly approved legalizing medical marijuana in 2016, the state Department of Health and the Legislature has crafted its rules and regulations.
A court recently struck down the Legislature's ban on smoking medical cannabis, which it had argued could be used as a "backdoor attempt" to move to recreational use.
But Fried explained that the Commissioner of Agriculture has oversight over pesticides used for growing marijuana in Florida as well as the food safety rules surrounding medical edibles. Eventually, she sees total legalization in Florida's future.
"As the state moves toward potential legalization then it just becomes a crop," she said to the Times/Herald.
"The growing of cannabis as well as industrial hemp are the next cash crops in the state of Florida," especially after Florida's issues with citrus greening, she added.
Fried will be running against two other Democrats in the Aug. 28 primary, Jeffrey Porter and R. David Walker. Her GOP opponents are Baxter Troutman, a former state House member from Winter Haven; Sen. Denise Grimsley of Sebring; Rep. Matt Caldwell of North Fort Myers; and Plant City businessman Mike McCalister, a retired Army National Guard and Reserves colonel.
In response to the announcement, Brian Swensen, spokesperson for Caldwell’s campaign said: “We have all known Nikki Fried as a long time lobbyist and Tallahassee insider," adding that her call for increased regulations on guns "proves the importance of having the Republican nominee be an unwavering defender of the 2nd Amendment. Matt is the only candidate to consistently have an A+ NRA rating and he will not compromise."
Sarah Bascom, spokeswoman for Grimsley's campaign, said the former state senator "is focused on her campaign and winning the Republican primary. We look forward to a spirited campaign with the Democratic nominee, whoever that may be.”