Another strong point for medical marijuana: 'necessity' defense

April 5, 2013 

The case for the medicinal use of marijuana became stronger this week when this region's State Attorney's Office declined to prosecute a Parrish man who admittedly grew the illegal plant for his ailing wife. The public supports medical cannabis, and judicial decisions in Florida have concurred.

Robert and Cathy Jordan have been the poster couple for medical marijuana for well over a decade, lobbying legislators and traveling to Tallahassee to advocate the legalization of cannabis for medical reasons. While the Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Act have been filed in both the House and Senate this year once again, both are bottled up in committees -- unlikely to reach either chamber's floor in the waning weeks of the session.

Apparently, legislators do not want to debate this issue in public -- or allow testimony to be heard. If the state continues to decline prosecution of these cases, the Legislature's current position lacks merit.

The issue broke into the spotlight in February when the Manatee County Sheriff's Office received a complaint about marijuana plants growing at the Jordan home. Upon visiting the Jordan's Parrish home, deputies confiscated several pot plants and some seedlings but did not arrest anyone -- a compassionate and sensible response in this case.

Robert Jordan freely admitted he was growing the plants for his wife to relieve symptoms from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

Upon completion of the investigation, the MCSO turned the evidence over to the state attorney. On Tuesday, the 12th Circuit's State Attorney's Office issued its compelling and reasoned decision.

The memorandum from the office's division chief, Brian Iten, stated unequivocally: "A review of Mrs. Jordan's medical records, supplied through counsel, and telephone contact with Dr. Denis Petro, a neurologist who last examined Mrs. Jordan, confirmed ... that the defendant could not accomplish the same objective using a less-offensive alternative."

Cathy Jordan has been smoking cannabis to relieve her symptoms since 1989, beginning three years after her diagnosis and finding all her many legal medications lacking. The serious side effects of those toxic prescriptions include death, making marijuana a safer alternative. Iten also stated: "For Mrs. Jordan, cannabis provides relief without the side effects associated with her other medical options."

The state attorney concluded that "the state lacks a good-faith belief it can overcome a medical necessity defense in this matter," thus declining to prosecute Robert Jordan -- the only reasonable outcome since legal precedent has been established.

Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube recognizes the barrier to prosecution. "The State Attorney's Office is making their decision based on current case law in the state of Florida," Steube told Herald reporter Richard Dymond. "We support their decision."

Eighteen states and the District of Columbia allow the medical use of marijuana, and legislation is pending in a host of other states. Despite the lack of scientific proof -- with research difficult given the plant's illegal status on a federal level -- cannabis has been found to soothe symptoms of arthritis, chronic pain, muscle spasms, nausea and cancer, among other conditions.

In the court of public opinion, the empirical evidence is conclusive. Seventy percent of Florida voters favor the legalization of medical marijuana via a state constitutional amendment, including a majority of Republicans.

Florida's GOP-controlled Legislature should be listening and at the very least put the issue in play this session for broad debate. Else citizens take matters into their own hands through petitions and place an amendment proposal on the ballot.

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