FLORIDA — A group of Florida women have launched a statewide education and advocacy initiative aimed at building support for legalizing and regulating cannabis for adult use. The Women’s Initiative for a Safe and Equitable Florida (WISE Florida) was founded by four moms from across the state who are leaders in the cannabis policy and advocacy community.
“Like the women who rallied in support of repealing alcohol prohibition nearly a century ago, we started this initiative out of concern for our families and communities,” said co-founder Moriah Barnhart of Tampa Bay. “Our goal is to build a diverse network of supporters across the state and empower them to educate their families, friends, and elected officials about the harm prohibition is causing and the urgency behind reform.”
The organization has begun to amass a list of local and national supporters, and its leaders were joined at a news conference today by founding supporters Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and Director of Cannabis Holly Bell.
“As the conversation around the legalization of marijuana for adult use begins in Florida, it’s crucial that the public understands the extent of the damage cannabis prohibition has caused,” Fried said. “From widespread and racially disparate arrests to the dangers of the illegal market — prohibition on cannabis has been a costly, damaging policy disaster that cannot continue. I applaud the women of WISE Florida for launching this important public education and advocacy initiative in pursuit of a safer and more equitable approach to future cannabis policy.”
WISE Florida was founded by women but welcomes participation from everyone — regardless of their gender, ethnicity, sexuality, disability, or religion — who supports sensible cannabis policy reform. Through education, outreach and advocacy, it plans to raise awareness about the harms of cannabis prohibition and build support for regulating cannabis to improve safety, advance justice, and foster opportunity in Florida.
“Cannabis prohibition is driving cannabis and the people who consume it into a hazardous and uncontrolled illegal market,” said co-founder Sally Kent Peebles, an attorney who manages the Jacksonville office of Vicente Sederberg LLP. “Legalizing and regulating it for adult use would bring production and sales aboveboard, improving safety for consumers and the broader community. It will also generate tax revenue, create good jobs, and foster opportunity for all Florida citizens.”
WISE Florida’s website — https://www.wiseflorida.org — details the benefits of regulating cannabis and highlights the criminal and social justice impacts of prohibition.
“Having served as both a prosecutor and a criminal defense litigator, I gained a lot of insight into the injustices associated with cannabis prohibition and the harm it causes to people and their families,” said co-founder Ivette Gonzalez Petkovich, founder of Petkovich Law Firm in Coral Gables. “It is clear to me cannabis prohibition laws are causing more harm to our citizens and communities than cannabis use itself ever could.”
While the organization was not founded to lead the charge on any specific bill or initiative, it will use its collective voice to support policy proposals that advance its core values of safety, justice, and opportunity.
“Cannabis prohibition has caused harm to all communities, and it has been especially devastating to communities of color,” said co-founder Tamieka Range, founder of the Range Law Firm in Orlando. “By legalizing cannabis and regulating it in a sensible and equitable manner, our state can finally begin to repair some of that damage."