Proponents of legalized medical marijuana vow to keep spotlight on issue
Published: Monday, April 1, 2013 at 6:53 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, April 1, 2013 at 6:53 p.m.
TALLAHASSEE — After 16 years of activism, much has changed for Manatee County residents and medical marijuana proponents Robert and Cathy Jordan.
They used to stand outside and shout into bullhorns in favor of legalizing marijuana for medical use. On Monday, they stood next to a podium in a Capitol office and made their case. Lawmakers used to ignore them; legislation now bears Cathy Jordan’s name.
Yet their cause has failed to garner a single committee hearing in the Florida Legislature, despite a medical marijuana bill being filed each of the last three years.
So on Monday, Cathy Jordan, who has Lou Gehrig’s disease, sat in the wheelchair — a marijuana leaf pin on her lapel and two tins for medical marijuana on her lap — and slammed state leaders for refusing to even debate the issue.
“Just open your minds a little bit,” said Jordan, who smokes two marijuana cigarettes every morning to help ease muscle spasms and other symptoms of her illness.
House bill sponsor Rep. Katie Edwards, D-Plantation, said the chance of a hearing this year is “slim to none.”
Leaders in the Republican-controlled House and Senate have wide latitude over which bills are debated, and medical marijuana is not on their priority list.
Many activists are now turning their attention to a grass-roots petition drive to put a constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana on Florida’s 2014 ballot.
But the Jordans and Edwards said they plan to keep pressure on the Legislature as well.
Edwards warned lawmakers that ignoring the issue will not make it go away.
“The folks who are doing the constitutional amendment drive are energized and the feeling that this has gone nowhere in the Legislature this year just fuels them,” she said.
Addressing the issue in the Legislature would give lawmakers more control over the regulatory system, Edwards said.
“I’m concerned about the voters coming out en masse and us being caught unprepared,” she said.
Edwards’ legislation, named the Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Act, specifies a regulatory system for licensing medical marijuana growers, retail dispensaries and patients.
The system would allow people such as the Jordans to grow a limited number of marijuana plants, a practice that led to their Parrish home being raided in February.
Robert Jordan announced this week he is rejecting a plea deal and will fight any charges in court, although prosecutors have not decided whether to press charges.
Jordan said prosecutors wanted him to agree not to grow more marijuana plants.
“I have no choice,” said Jordan, who wore a Vietnam veteran’s hat and Florida Cannabis Action Network shirt to the press conference. “What’s my wife supposed to do for medicine?”
The Jordans said they will visit every lawmaker’s office in the coming weeks to advocate for legalizing medical marijuana.
Robert Jordan said many lawmakers are still skeptical, but he believes attitudes are slowly changing.
“They wouldn’t even talk to us” before, he said.