Though her ALS has made speaking increasingly difficult, Cathy Jordan says she finally feels like her voice is being heard.
Sitting in her living room in Manatee County, Jordan smiles when asked how she feels about Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis announcing he wants to heed the will of voters when it comes to medical marijuana.
“I’m happy,” she says.
But the reality is the fight is far from over.
Jordan has been living with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, for some three decades. But it’s the medical marijuana that’s helped ease her symptoms that’s kept her alive, she says.
"When I first smoked cannabis in 1989 I felt my disease stop,” Jordan said.
Smoking dries out her mouth which keeps her from gagging and choking, making Jordan believe it’s the only effective method to consume the medicinal drug.
Jordan is one of the lead plaintiffs in the lawsuit challenging the state’s smoking ban.
In 2016, more than 71 percent of Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment allowing medical use of marijuana. Since then, the Republican-dominated Legislature has been criticized for the way it's implemented the amendment in state law, including banning smoking of the drug.
DeSantis said the current law doesn't reflect the will of voters and that it's not up to him what form of marijuana patients use to treat debilitating illnesses.
DeSantis announced Thursday that he's asking the Legislature to repeal a provision in Florida's medical marijuana law that prohibits smokable forms of the plant.
If it doesn't do so by mid-March, he said he will drop an appeal filed under his predecessor that seeks to keep the ban in place.
A circuit court judge ruled in May that the smoking ban is unconstitutional, but then-Gov. Rick Scott appealed the decision. DeSantis replaced fellow Republican Scott, who is now a U.S. senator, earlier this month.
"It's time that our governor is more interested in the will of the people,” Jordan said.
For Jordan and the more than 160,000 eligible medical marijuana patients in Florida like her, Thursday’s announcement marks a big step in the right direction.
But there’s more work to be done.
“I wish Florida would catch up,” Jordan said. “I’m always like two steps ahead of them.”
DeSantis also said he wants the amended law to address licensing limits that are also subjects of lawsuits.
“They created a cartel, essentially,” he said. “That is not good policy, so I’d like them to address that as well.”
Florida’s new Republican legislative leaders, Senate President Bill Galvano and House Speaker Jose Oliva, said they’ll work with DeSantis to amend the law. Galvano said in a news release that implementing the constitutional amendment “has been an ongoing problem mired in complex and protracted legal challenges.”
“Governor DeSantis has indicated that he prefers a legislative solution rather than a judicial order to bring the issue of implementation of the amendment to a conclusion. A legislative solution has always been my preferred course of action, and we will certainly honor the governor’s request,” Galvano said.
Democratic Sen. Gary Farmer filed a bill to allow smokable medical marijuana shortly after the DeSantis announcement.
“I would like to commend Governor DeSantis for his willingness to lead on this issue where past administrations have showed a lack of courage,” Farmer said in a press release.
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who campaigned on making medical marijuana more accessible, said she wants quicker action on smokable medical marijuana.
“Every day that medical marijuana in the pure plant form is unavailable to patients, Floridians continue to suffer. This is an issue I’ve seen firsthand throughout our state and country, and one that touches my family personally,” Fried said. “My mother was recently diagnosed with cancer, and she is struggling to find medicine that relieves her suffering.”
The annual legislative session begins March 5.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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