Parrish couple cultivated medical marijuana for 10 years before this week's bust

ejohnson@bradenton.comFebruary 27, 2013 

MANATEE -- For 10 years, Cathy Jordan and her husband, Robert, have grown her medicine of choice in the backyard at their Parrish home.

Cathy Jordan began regularly smoking cannabis to curb her symptoms since 1989, three years after she was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's Disease, reducing her pharmaceutical medications from nine to one. Jordan, like most people with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), was expected to live three to five years with the condition. It's been 27.

"I'm asking for my right to life," Cathy Jordan said. "It's life or death for me. I don't have a way to live. You can't just offer people a way to die."

Her supply of South African Power Plant Plus, a Sativa and Indica blended strain of marijuana, was seized Monday afternoon. Detectives from the Manatee Coun

ty Sheriff's Special Investigations Division confiscated two mature plants and 21 seedlings after receiving a complaint that marijuana was being grown at the home.

Dave Bristow, sheriff's office spokesman, said the office rarely deals in cases of medicinal marijuana, and was unsure if the more than 20 plants found was normal. The Jordans say it is.

"It's not greed, it's need," Robert Jordan said. "It takes so long to mature, you have to have some ready to use and some to replace it."

The Jordans usually grow a crop in the winter to get Cathy Jordan through the summer months. Cathy Jordan starts her morning with a cup of coffee, then one or two rolled joints before having breakfast. She will have another joint after dinner or before bed, depending on how she feels.

The cannabis acts as a muscle relaxer, an anti-inflammatory, anti-depressant and appetite enhancer. It's also clears her bronchial tubes of phlegm, which often causes fatal suffocation of people with ALS.

"It is literally saving her life," Robert Jordan said.

Deputies responded about 2 p.m. Monday to the Jordans' residence in the 4300 block of 98th Avenue East after a real estate agent who was conducting a routine inspection of a house for sale next door reported suspicious circumstances.

According to an incident report, the woman noticed an extension cord plugged into an outlet in the garage that ran through an open window and into the Jordans' fence. The woman pulled on the cord, which didn't recoil. When the woman looked through the fence, she saw a marijuana plant in the backyard.

"We had probable cause. It was in clear view," said Bristow, adding that fully developed plants are worth $1,200 to $1,500. "They gave us consent (to search the property)."

Robert Jordan said he was upset when the detectives, wearing ski masks, descended on his home, despite their professionalism.

No arrests were made. The case is being sent to the State Attorney's Office for review, Bristow said.

"I'm breaking the law; I know that," Robert Jordan said. "But we shouldn't have to break the law to do this. Now we're waiting to see if they come back to lock me up."

Robert Jordan cares for his wife, who is confined to a wheelchair, with the help of their son and daughter-in-law.

"That makes me nervous waiting on the police," Cathy Jordan said. "Everybody's luck runs out. We knew it would happen one day."

But without the plants, and with the pending charges, the Jordans find themselves in a difficult spot.

"If you take this, I have to go to the street," said a concerned Cathy Jordan as she recalled a decade-old story. "My son was going to buy and there was a shootout in the neighborhood. I couldn't get in touch with my son. That's when we started growing it."

The Jordans do not want to support drug cartels or other illegal dealers. In fact, they do not support the legalization of recreational marijuana, calling that "someone else's battle to fight," Robert Jordan said.

But the couple is active in the movement to legalize medical cannabis in Florida, and have been for 16 years. The couple was in Tallahassee last week, and Cathy Jordan initially feared that was why detectives appeared at her home.

A piece of legislation, called the Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Act, is being proposed by Florida Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth. And a poll, conducted for People United for Medical Marijuana, showed 56 percent of Republicans and 70 percent of Democrats and independents support the amendment, the Miami Herald reported Monday.

"If we had not gotten a complaint (Monday) this would not have happened," Bristow said. "Responding deputies were not aware of any legislation. Why would we want to get involved in that?"

The Jordans received several phone calls Tuesday from people, including attorneys and other pro-medicinal marijuana leaders, throughout the country who heard the story and know about Cathy Jordan's unusually long life that she attributes to the herb.

As more research is conducted, other states legalize the drug and more people become aware of terminal diseases that can be slowed by cannabis, Cathy Jordan is becoming optimistic that the bill could pass.

"We're not the problem, we're the solution," Cathy Jordan said.

Until then, cultivation, possession and usage of marijuana for any reason are crimes in the state of Florida.

"We had no choice as far as what we had to do here," Bristow said. "They had marijuana. Marijuana is illegal. We confiscated the marijuana."

Elizabeth Johnson, Herald crime reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041. Follow her on Twitter @EJohnsonBHcrime.

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