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Self-Dealing: Florida Dem Governor Candidate Vowing To Legalize Pot Owns Huge Stake In Dispensary Chain

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A Democratic Florida gubernatorial candidate who pledged to legalize marijuana if elected owns a sizable stake in a pot dispensary company, according to a financial disclosure.

Nikki Fried, who was a medical marijuana lobbyist before becoming Florida’s agriculture commissioner in 2018, has a $130,000 stake in Harvest Health and Recreation Inc. through a company called Ignite Holdings, her 2021 disclosure to the Florida Commission on Ethics shows.

In October 2021, Harvest Health and Recreation was acquired by Trulieve, the second largest public cannabis company by market cap. Harvest Health and Recreation has 14 locations in Florida, according to its website, and Trulieve has 118.

The fact that Fried has stake in a cannabis company that could benefit from legalization, which she supports, is a “massive conflict of interest,” Anthony Sabatini, a Republican Florida state House member, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

“Nobody should have major interests in any state-controlled industry of which she stands to profit from,” said Sabatini, who noted he supports the decriminalization of marijuana. “She’s going to be in a position where she’s voting on policy and she’s going to be conflicted because she’ll either get more money or produce a policy that is best for the American public.”

In 2018, Harvest Health and Recreation purchased San Felasco Nurseries, a medical marijuana company that was Fried’s largest lobbying client — according to her 2020 financial disclosure. And Fried listed major financial gains between her financial disclosures in June 2018 and June 2019 — with her Bank of America checking account climbing from roughly $30,000 to $196,000.

Fried also listed almost $190,000 of stake in Harvest Health and Recreation on her 2019 financial disclosure. She amended her 2018 disclosure in May 2021, days before announcing her gubernatorial bid, to reflect that her consulting firm raked in roughly $351,000 and not $72,000, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

The candidate had previously edited her 2018 disclosure in January 2020 to show she made $72,000, which was not public before, the outlet reported. There is “probable cause to believe” Fried violated state law in not reporting her lobbying income, the Florida Ethics Commission found in December 2021.

Fried’s position on marijuana legalization while maintaining financial stake in the industry is “a classic example of Democrat disingenuity,” a campaign spokeswoman for Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis told the DCNF.

“It has nothing to do with freedom or democracy, but rather it’s all personal and political gain,” the spokeswoman said.

Fried also helped legalize hemp in Florida and gave out almost 800 cultivation licenses — including to one that her former fiancée invested in.

Fried’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

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