Folio Weed: Moody’s Blues

Words by Shelton Hull

 

The inaugural Camp Folio™ weekend retreat was held  August 12-14 at Camp Declan in Interlachen, about 30 miles east of Gainesville. As team-building exercises go, it was a rousing success. From interns to management, folks formed bonds and strengthened others while working together to complete a series of increasingly complicated tasks, like buying groceries for a dozen people whose actual tastes are completely unknown; staying hydrated while also trying not to drown; and cooking breakfast in a kitchen where you don’t know where anything is.

 

Sitting lakeside on Sunday morning, as a long grueling grind of grillin’ and chillin’ lay before me, the rising sun got me in the mood to do something I almost never do on Sunday: work, at least a little bit. The setting was ideal for getting into this month’s weed column, which deals with what still seems the likely legalization of cannabis in Florida in 2025 and recent hiccups toward that end. So with my phone in my right hand and a red Solo cup of coffee in my left, let’s jump in.

 

As noted last month, activists have obtained the necessary signatures to get recreational weed on the November 2024 ballot. WIth polls indicating support well above the legal threshold, it’s all but certain to pass and then go into effect in January 2025. But not so fast, says Ashley Moody, our state’s Attorney General, who has taken a bold stand against the public will by challenging the petition. She correctly notes that legalization here does nothing to change its federal status, which should have been a priority in year one of the Biden Administration, but they were weak on the issue, and their window of opportunity closed, likely to never open again. She also notes correctly that Trulieve was the primary funder of the petition drive, and, as the largest cannabis company in Florida, is poised to profit bigly from legalization.

 

Now, I’m no lawyer, but I believe that you can never know too many. One of them, Sally Peebles of Vicente LLP, is an expert on cannabis law who’s turned up in this column before. (We even did some radio spots together, years ago.) “Moody is against the legalization of marijuana,” she said, “and she and her team are getting creative in their arguments to fight it.”

Peebles noted many do know about federal law, but it doesn’t stop the confusion. “The questions I get from most people are specifically about that friction between state and federal law and the consequences of it. I think it is frustrating that initiatives are only given so much word space to dedicate towards the ballot summary, and then they are told they are not saying enough in the summary. It’s contradictory, and leaves every ballot summary open to attack for confusion.” 

 

Cynics, like me, assume that Moody is carrying water for her boss, Gov. Ron DeSantis, who was notably laissez-faire in his handling of the subject to date. Much of the rollout of medical marijuana took place under the direction of Nikki Fried, formerly our state’s commissioner of agriculture and current chairwoman of the Florida Democratic Party. She will always be known for having birthed the state’s cannabis market, and clout will continue to accrue as that market grows into the billions when fully legalized. Now, as you may already know, Fried and DeSantis HATE each other, and that is the dynamic around which Florida politics will revolve over the next few years. 

 

DeSantis didn’t really seem to care about cannabis (or anything, really), until beginning a bid for president that appeals to the hardest of hard-right by bashing all their favorite targets: Blacks, Latinos, women, Jews, immigrants and especially LGBTQIA folks, all of whom were targeted for systematic slander and occasional violence. With DeSantis now engaged in open warfare against his political benefactor, The Don Trump, this has driven a most welcome wedge between factions of Florida Republicans, many of whom will be essentially ruined between now and 2026. It’s all but given that Fried and fellow Dems will be waiting to run down any wounded Republicans trailing the pack, then serve them fools up blood-red and steaming to a base that is positively starving for fresh meat.

 

The winner of all this will be Moody, who’s managed to remain relatively clean of the awful offal stench that clings to so many of her peers. No one will declare for the governor’s race in 2026 until we see who’s still standing after 2024, but we know that Moody will be. Of course, the door is open for, say, Lenny Curry or even Casey DeSantis herself to jump in, but if I’m betting money today, I’m calling it as Moody vs. Fried with our next governor guaranteed to be the first woman to do so. In which case, this current argument may offer a little glimpse into the future of Florida politics. Cannabis may well end up being the issue that helps decide that future.

 

About Shelton Hull

Shelton Hull has been writing for Folio Weekly since 1997, but his resume goes back even further. He has written for almost every newspaper, magazine and zine in Northeast Florida, as well as publications like Orlando Weekly, Narrow GNV, Creative Loafing Tampa, Charleston City Paper, Ink19 and The Atlantic. He currently writes the "Folio Weed" column, which he created in 2018; he remains one of the widest-read and most influential cannabis writers in the world today. He also compiles material for "Weird Wild Stuff" column, and he previously wrote the legendary "Money Jungle" column for Folio Weekly from 1999 to 2009. He is a regular contributor to "First Coast Connect" on WJCT, as well as the Jacksonville Music Experience. He is a co-host of "The Contrast Project" and the "Bold City Civics" podcast. He is also a co-founder of the record label Bold City Music Productions. He can be reached at sheltonhull@gmail.com.