What's Florida's top agriculture priority? You'll be shocked by Nikki Fried

What’s Florida’s top agricultural priority? You might be shocked to hear it from Nikki Fried

Excerpt: Her three-page résumé may only have the word “cannabis” twice but as of Wednesday, she’s Florida first pot czar.

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried announced that Holly Bell, a Nashville consultant and banker who worked to help service the hemp and cannabis industry, will be the state’s first director of cannabis — a $110,000 per year job.

The director will be tasked with overseeing the department’s involvement in the state medical marijuana program, directing rule-making for edibles and being a patient advocate,Fried said at a press conference announcing her decision.

“As we all know, our department’s cannabis effort is our top priority,” Fried said. “The stakes are really high in our state to get this right. Studies show Florida can be the number one state for medical marijuana. Holly’s experience bringing people together to implement a vision makes her a bold and bright choice.”

Bottom Line: As the story’s headline suggests there area number of people that are outraged that a banker from Nashville was recruited to be Nikki’s choice for Florida’s first ever “Director of Cannabis”. I understand those concerns as well but frankly that pales in comparison in my view to the jaw dropping statement she made about her department’s top priority. Anyone else catch that WTF statement? 

As we all know, our department’s cannabis effort is our top priority?!!! Well shoot, count me among the previously ill-informed. I foolishly assumed that Florida’s second biggest economic driver, the existing agriculture industry would’ve come first. Here are a couple of numbers to think about for a minute. 

  • 2 million people
  • $104 billion

Know what those two numbers are? The number of people who work in the agriculture industry in Florida and the total economic output to Florida’s economy of agri-business. Here are a couple of other numbers for you:

  • 2,800 people
  • $152 million

Know what those two are? The number of people employed in the marijuana industry in Florida and the amount of economic output last year. That’s right, the biggest priority for the person in charge of Florida’s agriculture industry is one, one-hundredth of it. There almost aren’t words except that maybe this is what happens when you elect a lawyer from Fort Lauderdale to run agriculture? If this is the mindset for the next four years, the out-of-state banker running the marijuana industry in Florida is among the least of our concerns. 

Yes, as I demonstrated on Tuesday, the marijuana industry has enormous potential in Florida but even if the highest estimates for its potential are reached and it becomes a $2 billion industry in our state within five years, it’d still be less than 2% of Florida’s agri-business. Priorities anyone? 

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