Meet Cathy Jordan
Not every woman is quick to tell you her age, but Cathy Jordan is the exception to every rule. Cathy turned 64 on January 1, 2014.
Cathy Jordan is an amazing example of the power of cannabis to do the improbable. Cathy was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig disease) in 1986 and given just 3-5 years to live. She discovered the neuro-protectant effect of cannabis before science could prove it, and today she is a 28-year survivor of the disease.
Cathy is a very determined woman. In 1989, she decided to winter in Florida. She knew she could save enough muscle relaxants to go back to her home in Delaware, celebrate one last New Year’s birthday, then die with dignity. While on a beach in Bradenton, Cathy smoked a joint of a local strain of cannabis, Myakka Gold, and she felt her disease stop.
“I don’t know how to describe it,” says Cathy when she shares the story. “It was like a low hum all over my body; I smoked the cannabis, I got hungry, I felt good. The hum just stopped.”
As it turns out, 1989 was a good year for cannabis growers in Florida. The Myakka Gold gang had a bumper crop and the for whatever reason, that medicine stopped the progress of Cathy's disease. Myakka Gold grower Donnie Clark served 12 years on a life sentence for his part in giving Cathy Jordan back her life. Clark’s sentence was commuted by President Clinton, and he spent January 1, 2014 helping Cathy celebrate her birthday.
Cannabis actually saved Cathy’s life not once, but twice! It stopped the progress of her disease in 1989, and in 2011, after a massive dose of cannabis oil, her body attempted to expel a previously undiscovered cancerous tumor weighing nearly ten pounds, which was successfully removed surgically. Cathy is not alone in her belief that cannabis is a vital piece of the puzzle in the quest to cure cancer.
Today, Cathy and Bob are both humming. This year, it is the Beattle’s tune, “When I’m Sixty-four”. For them it has a new meaning. Lou Gehrig’s disease is a neuro-muscular disease, and even though cannabis has retarded the progression, Cathy still lives with many of the classic symptoms. Cathy is wheel-chair bound, has limited use of her hands, and requires assistance for many of the things most people take for granted. Florida CAN created a special brochure with Cathy, detailing the effect cannabis has on the symptoms of this devastating disease.
The Jordan family didn’t set out to be vocal about Cathy’s use of cannabis. For over a decade, Cathy used cannabis quietly and privately. When researchers told Cathy her illegal drug use would prevent her from being considered for treatment if a cure was found, she knew it was time to join the fight to legalize cannabis. In February 1997, Cathy and her family stepped out of the shadows and began to speak about the miraculous affect cannabis has for her.
In 2011, Cathy became the President of the Board of Directors of the Florida Cannabis Action Network. She directs the action of a professional staff, speaks publicly about her life, and works with other ALS patients to understand the many ways cannabis improves the quality of life for patients with ALS
Cathy’s advocacy takes her around the country to speak to audiences of doctors, researchers, and activists. Here is a video of Cathy in 2012. In 2013, Senator Jeff Clemens and Representative Katie Edwards introduced the Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Act for Florida. The bill was introduced February 25, 2013, the same day Cathy’s home in Parrish was raided and 23 plants were seized by local authorities.
The raid by Manatee Sheriff’s deputies, working with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, set the stage for Cathy and Bob to qualify for Florida’s legal loophole for patients. The loophole was created when a Panhandle couple, Ken and Barbara Jenks, were acquitted of the crime of growing cannabis. The couple had contracted AIDS and no other treatment was effective in managing their disease. The acquittal was appealed by the state and later upheld by the 1st District Court of Appeals. State v. Jenks, 582 So.2d 676 (Fla. 1st DCA 1991). This case established what is known as the Medical Necessity Defense in Florida.
Medical Necessity is a common law defense that allows for someone to break the law under certain conditions without it being a crime. Florida’s defense looks at three areas: Did you cause the harm you seek to alleviate? Have you exhausted all other treatment options? And is the harm you seek to alleviate more harmful than the crime you are committing.
Trial attorney John Morgan credits the raid on the Jordan home as the impetus that propelled him into the cannabis fight. Rather than sponsor the Jordan’s legislative effort, Morgan is sponsoring a constitutional amendment that forces patients to wait until January 2016 to access cannabis through a licensed dispensary.
The million dollars Morgan poured into the constitutional amendment isn’t paying any bills for Florida CAN, but the publicity is putting pressure on lawmakers, something Cathy, Bob, and all of us at Florida CAN are counting on as they lead our legislative push beginning in January 2014.
On January 9, 2014 the Florida House Criminal Justice Committee is holding a workshop to educate lawmakers on the low THC, high CBD strains of hemp that hold promise for patients with seizure disorders.
Also in January 2014, the Florida Legislature is re-introducing the Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Act to establish a safe, legal medical cannabis system in Florida. The money we raise through Go Fund Me goes directly to keep Cathy in Tallahassee working these bills through the session.
Join here to follow Cathy as she and her friends work through the Florida legislature helping elected officials understand the power of cannabis to improve the quality of life for patients.
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