Nikki Fried’s grassroots campaign for Commissioner of Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has deep financial roots in Florida’s budding medical marijuana industry.
If elected, Fried will be overseeing a wide array of programs including agriculture law and environmental services, food safety, school lunches, concealed weapons licensing, and the animal industry. The Division of Consumer Services will also be under her umbrella, which regulates a variety of businesses including amusement parks, sweepstakes and game promotion, travel agents, and telemarketers.
Fried, a lawyer and former lobbyist for Colorado-based cannabis company The Green Solution, is running a campaign based in liberating Florida’s medical marijuana growers and dispensaries from heavy regulation and the Department of Health’s slow implementation of the Florida Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative, which passed November 16, 2016.
Some of the industry insider’s biggest campaign donors are affiliated with in and out of state cannabis companies. More than 15 percent of her campaign contributions can be traced back to nurseries, dispensaries, and individuals with business interests in the vertically integrated industry. In fact, Wells Fargo closed her campaign account on August 18 because of her donations from marijuana industry lobbyists and her “support on the medical marijuana issue,” according to an email the campaign received from Wells Fargo Senior Relationship Manager Antionette Infante.
Banks typically avoid businesses that deal with cannabis due to federal regulations that classify the drug as schedule one. But that didn’t stop Partner Colorado Credit Union from donating $3,000 five times to Fried’s campaign under Deltona, North Port Tamiami, Orlando, Pensacola, and West Palm Beach locations, for a total of $15,000, according to campaign finance documents. Address information is still under request for the donations and Partner Colorado doesn’t have any branches outside of Colorado. However, they do have a subsidiary called Safe Harbor Private Banking that deals specifically with cannabis dispensaries and their ancillary businesses.
$7,720 of donations are traceable to cannabis dispensary Surterra Wellness executives and employees. Surterra Holdings CEO Jake Bergmann donated $3,000 and Director of Supply Chain John Crowder donated $2,000, among others.
Additionally, Surterra officer Alexander Havenick, whose family legacy includes Magic City Casino in Miami and Naples-Ft. Myers Greyhound Racing and Poker, donated $1,000 from West Flagler Associates Ltd., Southwest Florida Enterprises, and Hayday Inc., which are holding and management companies for the casinos.
The campaign received $3,000 from Michael Smullen, CEO and franchise owner of Fried’s former employer, The Green Solution. Jason Vedadi, the CEO of national cannabis company Harvest DCP, also donated $3,000. Harvest DCP holds cannabis licenses in seven states, Florida not included.
By the numbers, Fried’s campaign received 22.6 percent ($59,481) of its financing from lawyers, law firms, and attorneys. Cannabis related donors contributed 15.6 percent ($41,188.40) to campaign coffers. The third largest chunk of money came from individuals and retirees, who donated 13 percent ($35,076) of her campaign funds.