The Phoenix Flyer

State Ag Dept. budget has a half-million dollars to destroy illegal pot plants

By: - May 9, 2019 3:27 pm


Florida has legalized medical marijuana, approved growing operations and given the green light to commercial industrial hemp crops.

But the new Florida Department of Agriculture’s budget allocates a half-million dollars in the coming year to destroying illegal marijuana plants.

The $500,000 is money provided by the federal government for a “domestic marijuana eradication program.” Because of requirements set by the federal government, the department has authority to spend $300,000.

According to state officials, the money will be used for (among other things) “indoor and outdoor spotter schools to train local law enforcement to detect and eliminate illegal marijuana growing operations,” and “protective clothing and safety supplies, as well as flight hours for helicopters” to hover over the state looking for pot plants.

The expenditure is a seemingly odd stance for Nikki Fried, a former lobbyist for the marijuana industry who is now Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services. In February, Fried hired the state’s first-ever Director of Cannabis, saying:

“The previous administration has obstructed the access and denied the will of the people. But a brand new day is here in the state of Florida. Cannabis is an incredible opportunity for our state, a life-changing treatment, a major economic driver, a chance to revolutionize agriculture in the state.”

When asked about the money to eradicate marijuana plants in Florida, Fried spokesman Max Flugrath said:

“The Domestic Marijuana Eradication program is a 20-year partnership among federal, state, and local agencies across the nation. Our Department, like many others around the country, serves as a pass-through for annual federal grants to conduct training programs for local law enforcement on detecting criminal operations and eliminating currently-illegal drugs sold on the black market.”

“Commissioner Nikki Fried is committed to doing things the right way – she is for increased access to legal medical marijuana and safely regulated cannabis, is at the forefront of creating a state hemp program, and is against illegal drug operations that put Floridians at risk and bring crime to our communities.”

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Julie Hauserman
Julie Hauserman

Julie Hauserman has been writing about Florida for more than 30 years. She is a former Capitol bureau reporter for the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times, and reported for The Stuart News and the Tallahassee Democrat. She was a national commentator for National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition Sunday and The Splendid Table . She has won many awards, including two nominations for the Pulitzer Prize. Her work is featured in several Florida anthologies, including The Wild Heart of Florida , The Book of the Everglades , and Between Two Rivers . Her new book is Drawn to The Deep, a University Press of Florida biography of Florida cave diver and National Geographic explorer Wes Skiles.