Cathy Jordan was diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, thirty years ago. Her doctors gave her five years to live. Jordan credits smoking marijuana with keeping her alive for so long.
“Makes my live a lot more bearable,” Jordan, who has difficulty speaking, told Leon County Circuit Court Judge Karen Gievers on Thursday.
Jordan, who had to have her husband translate most of her words, said smoking marijuana relaxes her body and dries her mouth, preventing her from choking on her own saliva. She says her lungs are functioning at 78 percent of their normal capacity, which her doctors tell her is “remarkable” for an ALS patient who has lived with the condition for so long.
Gievers will decide whether state lawmakers went too far when they passed a law last June implementing Florida’s medical marijuana amendment. The law bans the smoking of marijuana for medical purposes. Jordan is one of two women who are challenging the constitutionality of the law.
Orlando attorney John Morgan, who led the drive to pass Amendment 2 in 2016 was in the courtroom for the hearing. He’s part of the lawsuit challenging the law.
“I think what I was struck by … I’ve been a lawyer a long time I’ve seen a lot of drama in a lot of courtrooms, but today we saw a woman, literally fighting for her life, hoping to smoke marijuana to dry up her saliva so she doesn’t choke and die on her own spit,” Morgan said. “I just was struck by the fact that the state of Florida, who is here to protect our lives, is in fact trying to take her life, and so many like her and so many who will be like her.”
The state argues the amendment didn’t stipulate that smoking had to be permitted as part of the medical marijuana amendment. Lawmakers chose to ban smoking citing health reasons, claiming that smoking marijuana was just as dangerous to a person’s health as smoking cigarettes.
“The Legislature here has enacted a law that embodies reasonable safety concerns of medical use,” said Rachel Nordby, an attorney for the state. “The Legislature contemplated that it was making the flower form available through vaping” and they accounted for other inhaled methods that was available.”
Nordby added the state “has a role in setting parameters and it can absolutely base those parameters on health and safety concerns.”
The law allows patients who are prescribed medical marijuana to use vaping as a delivery option, along with edibles, oils, sprays, and tinctures.
But, Morgan argues smoking was included as a method of ingesting medical marijuana. He points to the section of the amendment that says smoking would not be permitted in public places.
“We did explicitly put in there that it could not be smoked in public,” Morgan said. “Now look, I’m not the smartest lawyer in the world, but if you can’t smoke marijuana in public, it conversely means you can smoke it in private.”
Morgan claims the vast majority of those who voted for the amendment, which exceeded 70 percent of the voters who cast ballots in 2016, believed it would allow the smoking of medical marijuana.
“If the state is able to prohibit smokeable marijuana, why shouldn’t they be able to prohibit vaping?, asked Jon Mills, an attorney for the plaintiffs. “Why shouldn’t they be able to prohibit edibles? Why shouldn’t they be able to prohibit medical marijuana?”
The decision now rests in the hands of Judge Gievers, but she was quick to point out that no matter what she decides, the ultimate decision will in all likelihood be made by a higher court.