Local group pushes for medical marijuana
By BETH BURGER
Cathy Jordan credits marijuana for keeping her alive.
The 58-year-old woman, who was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease when she was 36, has begun to lose control of her voice and hands.
She and her husband, Bob, have become advocates for the legalization of marijuana.
"We don't know why it works, it just does," said Bob, sitting next to his wife Wednesday evening at a meeting held at the Manatee Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. "We're in this to fight till the end."
Cathy Jordan smokes about one or two marijuana cigarettes per night. Without them, she says, she will die.
The couple was among a dozen supporters who met Wednesday to advocate the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes.
Noelle Davis, a federal policies consultant for the Marijuana Policy Project, said the Jordans are not alone.
Davis has traveled throughout Florida and other parts of the South speaking to groups, encouraging activism and awareness.
"We can break the shame and the silence of this issue," she said.
The vision of Davis's group is to legalize marijuana for both medicinal and recreational use. The meeting on Wednesday focused on medicinal purposes.
Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube said he's not against the federal government growing and dispensing the drug for medical uses, but his experience in law enforcement has led him to believe it should not be legalized for everyone.
"I understand those on the other side of the fence will argue that it's good for glaucoma or cancer because it eases pain," Steube said. "I am not against the U.S. government growing and dispensing through a prescription."
The prolonged smoking of marijuana leads to it being stored in the fatty tissues of the body such as the brain and reproductive organs, which can lead to health defects, he said.
He said he doesn't remember ever arresting anyone on drug charges who claimed the drug was for medicinal purposes.
According to Davis, there are only a handful of people who have legal prescriptions receiving 300 marijuana cigarettes. She would like to see legislators both at a state and federal level make it so those with medical conditions can qualify for use.
"There are people who need this to survive. This is not about having a party," she said.
Marijuana is considered the No. 2 drug of choice in Manatee County, he said. Cocaine is the most popular.
Most of the marijuana found by investigators is imported from Mexico