Politics & Government

Critics attack Miami-Dade Democrat over her ties to cannabis-infused sex products

Doral attorney Ivette Gonzalez Petkovich, a Democratic candidate for Florida House District 103, used to be a legal adviser to a company that sold cannabis-infused sex products. Republican critics are using the job experience to question her values.
Doral attorney Ivette Gonzalez Petkovich, a Democratic candidate for Florida House District 103, used to be a legal adviser to a company that sold cannabis-infused sex products. Republican critics are using the job experience to question her values. Gonzalez Petkovich campaign

A Democratic legislative candidate in Miami-Dade County was previously a legal adviser to a company called Canna Teaze that marketed cannabis-infused sexual wellness products — like “hemp honey dust” and lubricants — but Ivette Gonzalez Petkovich says it’s a “dirty mischaracterization” for her Republican critics to use that job experience as a way to question her values.

Gonzalez Petkovich, an attorney from Doral who’s running for Florida House District 103, told the Miami Herald’s editorial board that she’s “very proud of the work and the help that I offered” to Canna Teaze but said she no longer represents the company because its founder, Misty Lee, moved out of state.

Gonzalez Petkovich said she met Lee two years ago when Gonzalez Petkovich was advocating for a constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana in Florida. Gonzalez Petkovich — who is the registered agent and a board member of the Florida-based awareness group, CannaMoms — said she passionately supports the use of medical marijuana because “I really and truly believe that this is medicine.”

Her involvement in Canna Teaze “was just in my capacity as an attorney helping [Lee] seek investment for this particular project that she wanted to pursue,” Gonzalez Petkovich told the editorial board on Thursday.

She said the products Canna Teaze aimed to sell were “essentially bath salts, bath beads — where it’s oils that you put in the bathtub, so when you suffer from chronic pain, this particular product is supposed to alleviate you.”

“One of the products that she had was a cannabis-infused lubricant,” Gonzalez Petkovich acknowledged.

A copy of Canna Teaze’s former website — which was obtained by the Herald/Times, although the site itself is no longer online — lists the company’s products as having included: “chocolate body paint, hemp honey dust, organic silicone & infused coconut oil personal lubricant, flavored lubricants [and cannabis-based] dripping/melting massage candies.”

In a follow-up statement to the Herald/Times, Gonzalez Petkovich noted on Friday that, “while I helped with the start-up of this small business, it’s important to note that this product never came to market and never left the concept stage of development.”

Nonetheless, unnamed critics are trolling Gonzalez Petkovich for her connections to Canna Teaze through a fake Twitter account — which includes some adult-rated retweets — that mocks her affiliation with the business.

Meanwhile, Citizens for Florida Prosperity — a political committee with indirect ties to the Republican Party of Florida and other significant GOP donors — has made a campaign issue of Gonzalez Petkovich’s pro-cannabis work, such as speaking engagements she’s done at conventions around the country.

“Ivette Petkovich’s only education experience is leading seminars that present marijuana in a ‘positive light,’ ” reads one mailer from the Citizens group that was printed in both English and Spanish. “Is this really the kind of education leader our kids and grandkids need?”

State election records show the two largest funding sources for Citizens for Florida Prosperity are the Florida Conservative Action Fund and Florida First Forever, Inc. All three committees were created within a couple weeks of each other this summer, and their finances intersect.

A Herald/Times analysis of campaign finance records showed the Republican Party of Florida cut $100,000 checks in both August and September to the Conservative Action Fund, which then donated tens of thousands of dollars to the Citizens group days later both times.

Meanwhile, records also show the action fund gets most of its money from Florida First Forever, as Citizens does. Jobs for Florida — a political committee started by Republican Sen. Wilton Simpson, of Trilby, who is in line to be Senate president in 2020 — has given $375,000 to Florida First Forever, becoming its top donor.

Gonzalez Petkovich and her Democratic allies blame her opponent, Republican incumbent state Rep. Manny Diaz Jr. of Hialeah, for the attacks.

“I know my opponent is attacking me on that and painting this particular picture about me,” Gonzalez Petkovich said. “It’s essentially mischaracterizing what I do for a living to attack my character.”

Gonzalez Petkovich acknowledged, though, she’s doing the same thing to Diaz. She told the Herald’s editorial board that Diaz is “unqualified” to serve because he advocates for charter schools while working as an administrator at Doral College, which is managed by one of the largest charter school management companies in the state.

“It’s no surprise Manny Diaz is resorting to gutter politics to distract from his own record,” said Anders Croy, spokesman for the Democratic Party’s “House & Senate Victory” operation. “Manny Diaz is the face of public corruption in the Florida Legislature.”

Diaz — who has cast Gonzalez Petkovich as someone unfamiliar with District 103 because she currently lives outside its boundaries — said “there has been no mischaracterization” of his opponent.

“She clearly is concerned about her relationship to this and how it clashes with the values of this district,” Diaz said.

Diaz has represented District 103 since 2013. The district is heavily Hispanic with a moderate voting bloc. It includes parts of Hialeah, Miramar, Doral, Miami Lakes, Medley and Hialeah Gardens.

Kristen M. Clark: 850-222-3095, kclark@miamiherald.com, @ByKristenMClark