The Sunshine State was packed with political news this week, along with the perennial twists and turns in Florida’s budding marijuana industry.
But even the most politically plugged-in foodies and fashionistas focused their attention elsewhere, after two American icons reportedly took their own lives within days of each other.
Kate Spade, whose handbags, shoes and household goods were adored by prepsters, created “an accessories empire that helped define the look of an era,” according to The New York Times. Spade, 55, was found Tuesday after reportedly hanging herself with a scarf.
While Spade introduced young women to classy style, celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain turned Americans onto plates from around the world and around the corner.
The heavily inked Bourdain — tagged by The Smithsonian as “the “Elvis of bad boy chefs” — was found dead Friday morning in his hotel room in France, according to CNN. The 61-year-old Bourdain, who was in the country working on his popular CNN series, “Parts Unknown,” killed himself, the network sadly announced.
Bourdain wasn’t a politician, but he served as an ambassador of sorts, bridging cultural gaps in far-flung places over wine and sea urchin caviar pasta or along dirt roads slurping oysters and beer.
“Food is everything we are. It’s an extension of nationalist feeling, ethnic feeling, your personal history, your province, your region, your tribe, your grandma. It’s inseparable from those from the get-go,” he once said.
Bourdain took his own life a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a grim report revealing that the suicide rate throughout the nation has jumped by more than a quarter over the past 17 years.
Florida’s suicide rate climbed by 10.6 percent, but what’s even more alarming is that 25 states saw increases in suicide rates topping 30 percent. Only one state — Nevada — experienced a drop.
With nearly 45,000 suicides across the country in 2016, the report described suicide as a “growing public health problem” and said a variety of factors may contribute to the increase.
“Comprehensive statewide suicide prevention activities are needed to address the full range of factors contributing to suicide,” the report said. “Prevention strategies include strengthening economic supports (e.g., housing stabilization policies, household financial support); teaching coping and problem-solving skills to manage everyday stressors and prevent future relationship problems, especially early in life; promoting social connectedness to increase a sense of belonging and access to informational, tangible, emotional, and social support; and identifying and better supporting persons at risk (e.g., military veterans, persons with physical/mental health conditions).”
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline — 800-273-8255 — and the Florida Suicide Prevention Coalition — floridasuicideprevention.org — are among the many resources available for people or family members seeking help.
Perhaps there’s no way of knowing the factors that led to the deaths of Spade, Bourdain or the thousands of others whose lives are mourned every day.
But 13th century Persian poet Saadi of Shiraz offered some advice for people struggling with imperfection: “Have patience. All things are difficult before they become easy.”
Much of the political jostling this week took place in the Democratic race for governor.
Here’s the short version: Billionaire Jeff Greene’s in, and former Congressman Patrick Murphy’s out.
After weeks of talking about the possibility of a campaign with former U.S. Rep. David Jolly as his running mate, Murphy decided this week his friendship with Gwen Graham — another former congressional colleague — trumped his gubernatorial ambitions.
Murphy and Jolly, a Pinellas County Republican, made national headlines as they floated the idea of a bipartisan ticket.
But Murphy, who served two terms in Congress before leaving to launch a losing bid for the U.S. Senate in 2016, put an end to the speculation Thursday, saying “you never want to run against a friend.”
In a Broward County press conference with Graham and her father, former U.S. senator and former Gov. Bob Graham, Murphy cited the younger Graham’s support for issues that he has backed, including the expansion of health care, environmental protections and support for public schools.
“I have decided not to enter the race for governor because there is one Democratic candidate already demonstrating the leadership Florida needs and fighting for the values we share — and that Democrat is Gwen Graham,” Murphy said in a statement Thursday.
Murphy’s announcement came days after Palm Beach real-estate investor Jeff Greene filed paperwork to run as a Democrat for governor, joining a crowded field that already includes four major candidates.
Greene, 63, who lives two doors down from President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 2010. He also ran unsuccessfully in 1982 as a Republican for a congressional seat in California.
With formal qualifying scheduled to start June 18, Greene opened a campaign account in a primary that includes Graham, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, Orlando-area businessman Chris King and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.
Christian Ulvert, a top adviser to Levine’s campaign, noted that Greene entered the race just 50 days before the Aug. 28 primary ballots are mailed out. Levine and Graham have been the early leaders, although a large swath of Democratic primary voters remain undecided, public polls indicate.
Levine’s campaign has been bolstered by television ads financed by more than $15 million he had raised through May, including at least $8 million in personal contributions.
But Greene, who has a net worth of $3.8 billion according to Forbes, will be able to immediately compete if he decides to self-fund his campaign like he did in 2010, when he spent nearly $24 million in the Senate bid.
The billionaire won’t rely on earned media, at least not yet. Greene has declined to appear with the other four candidates at debates Saturday and Monday, according to the Florida Democratic Party.
Seeing green from the green stuff
In another indication of how lucrative Florida’s cannabis market is or could be, a California-based company bought one of the state’s medical-marijuana operators for $53 million.
Under the agreement announced Wednesday, the company MedMen will acquire Treadwell Nursery’s five-acre cultivation facility, located in Eustis, and the right to operate 25 dispensaries throughout the state, the maximum currently allowed under Florida law.
“Florida is the third most populous state in the country with a medical marijuana market estimated to reach $1 billion in annual sales by 2020. MedMen has built the best-in-class brand, and we continue to invest in premium assets that solidify our dominant position in the most important cannabis markets in the world,” MedMen co-founder and CEO Adam Bierman said in a prepared statement Wednesday.
MedMen, which runs retail shops in high-end locations such as Beverly Hills and Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, operates 18 facilities in California, Nevada and New York.
Treadwell, which operates as “Remeny Wellness” and is one of the state’s 13 licensed medical-marijuana firms, hasn’t begun selling products but has been authorized by the state to begin cultivation.
The Treadwell deal is the latest multimillion-dollar transaction in Florida’s highly regulated medical-marijuana industry. Lawmakers have restricted the number of licensed operators in the state, which has intensified competition for the licenses and boosted their value.
Investors from around the world have wooed the state’s licensed marijuana operators since Florida lawmakers first legalized non-euphoric cannabis for a limited number of patients in 2014.
The courtship has exploded since Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2016 that broadly legalized medical marijuana. State health officials have estimated that at least 500,000 Floridians could be eligible for medical marijuana use, and some industry analysts predict twice as many patients will sign up for the treatment.
And the quest to plant a cannabis footprint in the Sunshine State continues to intensify as businesses like MedMen plan on the eventual legalization of recreational pot.