Ponte Vedra Beach lawyer hopes to paint red District Four blue

Democrat Ges Selmont is running for his first bid in elected office against Republican incumbent John Rutherford for Florida’s 4th Congressional District, which includes the University of North Florida campus.

“I think that the biggest issue facing the First Coast is that people, they feel the system is rigged and don’t feel that America is fair anymore,” the Harvard and Yale educated attorney said. “So this campaign for Democrats, this election has to be about restoring fairness to the system. Economic fairness and judicial fairness.”

Selmont thinks that income inequality is reflected in other areas of life in America and wants to level the playing field for in favor of those who are disenfranchised.

“Part of what progressive Democrats feel is we need to, instead of attacking unions, we need to be expanding people’s ability to collectively bargain. Unionizing Uber drivers, unionizing people in the gigging economy,” he said.

Selmont has served in several appointed positions including conservation and historic district commissions in Massachusetts and the Commission for Educational Technology in Connecticut. He moved to Ponte Vedra Beach in 2010 with his wife and two boys.

Selmont is fighting an uphill battle by running against a Republican former sheriff in a district that hasn’t had a Democrat in the house since 1989, but he hopes to bring out the youth voters of the University of North Florida and Florida State College at Jacksonville.  He didn’t mince words when reflecting on the incumbent’s term in office.

“John Rutherford does not have the communication skills, the energy, the vision, to be our congressman,” Selmont said. “We have a mayor who’s trying to sell off parts of the city because his congressional delegation is not bringing home money to clean up brownfields and to spur economic development in Jacksonville.”

“If college students want to make change, they have to elect new people,” Selmont continued. “The youth always win. You guys are going to win, it’s just, do you win this year or do you win in 20 years?”

In addition to voicing support for collective bargaining rights, he also indicated that he disagrees with America’s drug policy and the way it’s enforced.

“On a national level, the issue that really concerns me about pot is what I said the focus of our campaign is, which is about returning fairness to the system” Selmont indicated. “And clearly, the judicial system has not treated drug offenders, especially recreational use drug offenders, fairly.”

Selmont seemed more concerned about what he sees as victims of the drug war rather than legalizing drugs for economic or libertarian purposes.

”There’s obviously a disparate racial impact to that, where kids in the city have less access to representation or are getting heavier sentences for drug crime than kids in the suburbs, or young adults, or adults in the suburbs. So it’s very concerning for me that we put fairness back in the legal system and I don’t see our drug laws being applied fairly.”

The progressive newcomer is eager to involve community members in his campaign and said he’d like to hear more from district four voters about what they think are the issues that affect them.

“We know we’re not hearing from everybody, because it’s hard to reach everybody. So I’d love to hear from students about what they think the issues are and show them how the Democratic Party is going to work to address those,” Selmont said.

For more information on Ges Selmont’s campaign platform and background, visit his campaign website.  

Nikki Fried’s campaign coffers loaded with cannabusiness donations

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.


World Health Organization classifies ‘gaming disorder’ as a mental health condition

The new addiction epidemic affecting teens and young adults across the globe isn’t chemical. It’s digital.

The World Health Organization first classified gaming disorder as a disease in the June 2018 release of the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). According to the WHO, people with gaming disorder can’t control their impulse to constantly play and they prioritize gaming over their personal lives and daily activities, despite mounting negative consequences. Some go days without bathing, sleeping, or eating.

That description seems like it could swap the word “gaming” with any other addictive behavior or substance such as “gambling” or “heroin” and be an accurate representation of those more well-known addictive disorders because they all act on the addict’s brain in the same way.

“We know now from neuro-imaging studies it’s called the reward pathway. It involves several areas of the brain, including the prefrontal cortex, which is the seat of executive functioning,” said Dr. Hilarie Cash, cofounder and chief clinical officer of reSTART, a digital and gaming addiction treatment center. “So that and other areas of the brain are involved in this pleasure pathway. The same thing is going on with gambling, the same thing is going on with sex addiction, the same thing is going on with drug and alcohol addiction.”


Since gaming is so common within American culture, it’s hard to fathom that a gaming addict and a crack-head are really caught in the same vicious cycle of behavior.

According to Cash, studies on the subject vary due to the lack of a standard criteria used to evaluate gaming addicts. She said that some studies estimate 1.5 percent of the general population may suffer from gaming disorder, while others are up to 13 percent. It’s important to note that some of these studies lump gaming addicts and internet addicts together, so people who exhibit similar addictive behaviors toward social media or other online activities are included in these numbers.

“We know that among young adults, the rate is up to between 13 and 19 percent for internet addiction, including video game addiction. In the 8 to 18-year-old population, it seems to be hovering about 8 to 8.5 percent in this country,” Cash said.


This disparity in age groups is due to the increased academic and social demands of going to college or leaving home and living independently. Young adults that had family regulating their usage and providing structure in the household find themselves in unfamiliar high-pressure environments that provoke anxiety or other latent mental health issues, so they use their go-to coping mechanism to escape the new painful reality.

UNF senior Cooper Daniel echoed a similar experience from his days at the UNF dorms.

“Freshman year, there was this one kid who was streaming and his dorm room sink was completely filled to the brim with gunk. He just didn’t care because he had his headset on in the corner, non-stop, all day long,” Daniel said. Streamers broadcast their gameplay to sites like Twitch, where followers can watch and interact with each other.

Daniel also recalled the time his parents had to take away his World of Warcraft account when he was in high school. He regularly skipped school to play the popular MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) with his friends and his grades began to suffer.

“It’s just such an expansive game,” Daniel said. “You can pretty much do whatever you want, wherever you want with millions of people right in front of you when you’re playing it.”

Cash maintained that games and apps are engineered to “hook” users through their structures and reward systems.

“If I find something like sports or anything like that, if I fall into it, I get really into it. But WOW (World of Warcraft) was too much. It was way too much. I couldn’t even see how bad I was getting with it,” Daniel reflected.

These days, Daniel has found a way to balance gaming with school, work, and a social life. That includes swearing off World of Warcraft for good.

“I just don’t play it anymore,” he said. “I’m a lot more casual with how I play my games now.”