Insights from the Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Act

A Brief History of the Short-Lived Act

Posted on October 28, 2013 by Jeffrey Feiler

Early in 2013, there were bills introduced in both the Florida House of Representatives (HB 1139) and the
Florida Senate (SB 1250) to legalize the medicinal use of marijuana for qualifying patients. Although the bills died in committee over the summer, they provide insight into how the Florida Legislature intends to treat medical marijuana once it is legalized. This insight is indispensable, considering that there is currently a proposed amendment to the Florida Constitution that has a high chance of being placed on the November 2014 ballot.

If the proposed amendment gets placed on the ballot and passes by a 60% vote, medical marijuana will become legal in the state of Florida. Once it passes, the amendment tasks the Florida Department of Health with implementing the regulations and procedures. Although the amendment does not require the Florida Legislature to enact any laws regarding Florida Medical Marijuana, the amendment does allow the Legislature to enact laws consistent with the amendment. That being said, HB 1139 and SB 1250 are a good point of reference to see how the Department of Health and the Florida Legislature may act if the amendment is passed.

The two bills, which are identical, are known as the Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Act. Cathy Jordan is a medical marijuana activist who suffers from Lou Gehrig's disease. She has used medical marijuana for years to combat the symptoms of the disease. On Monday, February 25, 2013, the Miami Herald published an article stating that 7 out of 10 Floridians support the legalization of medical marijuana for patients with debilitating diseases. Cathy Jordan was mentioned in the article, along with State Senator Jeff Clemens of Lake Worth and State Representative Katie Edwards of Plantation, who were in the process of introducing SB 1250 and HB 1139 to the Florida Legislature.

Hours after the article ran, the Manatee County Sheriff's Department led an armed raid with a team of deputies wearing ski masks on the home of Cathy Jordan and her husband Robert. Although Cathy, who is confined to a wheelchair, and Robert, who is 64 years old pose no serious threat to society, it is clear, based on the timing of the raid, that the Manatee County Sheriff wanted to make an example out of the couple.

The gross over-expenditure of law enforcement resources employed in the raid of a home belonging to one elderly and one chronically ill individual highlights the need for medical marijuana reform in the state of Florida. Although the state attorney decided not to press charges, a significant amount of law enforcement time and resources, not to mention taxpayer money, was spent on the futile raid. Furthermore, the emotional toll was extreme. Cathy Jordan and her husband were bullied, frightened, and placed in harm's way by a team of masked law enforcement officers carrying automatic weapons.

It is safe to say that the intentions of the Manatee County Sheriff's Department backfired. Rather than discouraging a state-wide conversation on medical marijuana and silencing activists who have the courage to publicize their views, the armed raid of an elderly patient and her caregiver amplified state-wide activism for legalizing medical marijuana. The State House and Senate bills were introduced, and later, a state-wide initiative to legalize medical marijuana via a constitutional amendment on the November 2014 ballot was spearheaded by United for Care, an organization funded by Orlando attorney John Morgan.

A few years ago Florida was a far cry from legalizing medical marijuana. Now Florida is quickly becoming an active forum for medical marijuana reform. With a strong chance that medical marijuana would be legalized in Florida in the near future, it is prudent to examine how the state will implement its inevitably forthcoming medical marijuana laws. The next series of articles will examine different aspects of the Cathy Jordan Medical Marijuana Act, along with Colorado's HB 1284, and other states' medical marijuana legislature in an attempt to examine the possible legislative paths Florida may take when medical marijuana is accepted in the state.

  • Broward, Florida
  • Miami-Dade, Florida
  • Palm Beach, Florida