TAMPA (WFLA) – Another group has launched its support of recreational marijuana legalization in Florida.
Women Initiative for a Safe & Equitable Florida — WISE Florida — launched with a Zoom call on Thursday attended by Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and Florida’s director of cannabis Holly Bell.
The group of Florida moms are led by Tampa Bay resident Moriah Barnhart, who said medical marijuana has helped her daughter survive since she was diagnosed and treated with a rare form of cancer when she was two-years-old.
“We successfully legalized medical cannabis to protect patients from arrest and make sure they have safe access to well-controlled products,” Barnhart said. “And for the sake of advancing justice and improving public health and safety, it’s time that we take the next step and regulate cannabis across the board for adult use.”
There are five proposed constitutional amendments for next year’s ballot in Florida that all have to do with marijuana. Three of them are pushing for recreational legalization. Only one has to make it on the ballot and get 60% voter support to become law.
A survey in early March by Florida for Care found that nearly 60 percent of Floridians support marijuana legalization for recreational purposes.
Supporters of legalization say it would reduce inequities in the criminal justice system, reduce drug cartel revenue, and free up law enforcement resources.
There are potential drawbacks, according to some doctors and public health professionals.
Groups like Moms Strong have united around battling marijuana legalization due to what they say are the overlooked consequences of the drug. Several public health experts spoke about the dangers in a documentary called “The Other Side of Cannabis: Negative Effects of Marijuana on our Youth.”
Fried, a former marijuana industry lobbyist and a long-time supporter of legalization, said a good plan can help outweight the negatives.
“Part of it is education, making sure the right regulations are in place,” said Fried. “But the benefits of legalization outweighs [sic] those small issues that can be fixed by any smart regulatory oversight program.”
While a state constitutional amendment could make recreational marijuana legal in Florida, it is still illegal on the federal level, classified as a Schedule I drug along with drugs like cocaine and heroin.
President Joe Biden does not support legalization, and only recently became a supporter of decriminalization. Biden also worked to pass bills that were tough on drug crimes during his 36-year tenure as a U.S. Senator from Delaware.
Biden’s administration recently fired at least five staffers over their past use of marijuana, even though the drug is legal for recreational use in Washington, D.C.