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Remembering the Legacy of Cathy Jordan and Her Fight for Medical Cannabis in Florida

The cannabis community in Florida mourns the loss of Cathy Jordan, a trailblazing advocate for medical marijuana, who passed away on July 4 at her home in South Florida at the age of 74, first reported by the Florida Phoneix. Known as the “patron saint” of medical cannabis in the state, Jordan’s relentless fight for legalization has left an unforgettable mark on the movement.

Originally from Delaware, Jordan was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, in 1986.

This condition generally carries a life expectancy of two to five years after diagnosis. On average, patients survive for about three years. Approximately 20% of ALS patients live for five years, 10% make it to 10 years, and 5% reach 20 years or more. Remarkably, Jordan defied these odds, living 38 years beyond his diagnosis.

In 1989, while visiting Florida, a friend introduced Jordan to a strain of cannabis called Myakka Gold. It was a pivotal moment in her life.

“I smoked it and I felt the disease stop,” she recalled in the documentary “The Cathy Jordan Story.” Determined to continue using cannabis for its life-changing benefits, she smuggled the plant back to Delaware, much to her husband’s distress. This bold step marked the beginning of her lifelong advocacy for medical marijuana.

Moving to Florida and Beginning Her Advocacy

Jordan and her husband, Bob, eventually moved to Parrish, Manatee County, Florida, where she began using cannabis regularly. She found that it significantly improved her physical and mental well-being.

Her advocacy work started in the late 1990s when she attended and spoke at a hemp festival at Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, organized by the Florida Cannabis Action Network. This marked the beginning of a nearly three-decade partnership with Jodi James, president of the Florida Cannabis Action Network.

Jordan’s advocacy for medical cannabis was not an easy path. She made numerous trips to Tallahassee to lobby for legislative approval, but her efforts frequently faced resistance in the GOP-controlled House and Senate. This opposition is now targeting a recreational cannabis initiative that, if passed in November, would permit adults 21 and older to smoke cannabis legally.

One of the most notable moments in her advocacy was the introduction of the “Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Act” in 2013. Unfortunately, it never received a committee hearing. Tragically, within a week of the bill’s introduction, authorities arrested her husband, Bob, for cultivating cannabis plants to help manage her condition. Although the state attorney eventually dropped the charges, the incident highlighted the harsh legal cannabis landscape in Florida they were fighting against at the time.

Road to Legalization

Despite these challenges, the fight continued. In 2014, a medical marijuana constitutional amendment was placed before Florida voters. It received 57% support but fell short of the 60% threshold needed for passage. However, a similar amendment passed in 2016 with more than 71% approval.

Despite this victory, the Florida Legislature passed a bill in 2017 banning the use of smokable marijuana. This prompted a lawsuit, and Jordan testified against the law in Leon County Circuit Court in 2018, emphasizing the necessity of allowing smokable cannabis for medical use.

In 2019, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis called for the repeal of the ban on smokable medical marijuana, leading to its removal.

Remembering Cathy Jordan

The news of Cathy Jordan’s passing hit the cannabis community in Florida hard. Cathy was not just an advocate; she was a symbol of hope and resilience.

“She was instrumental in getting medical [cannabis] passed, and getting any kind of cannabis legislation moved here in Florida,” said Pete Sessa to, co-founder of the Florida Cannabis Coalition to the Florida Phoneix. “She was just an amazing woman and such a big loss to the community.”

Carlos Hermida, owner of two hemp shops in the Tampa Bay area, echoed these sentiments in Florida Phoneix’s article. Cathy “lived more than 30 years [after her ALS diagnosis] by smoking joints,” Hermida said. “She was such a sweet lady. She found it hard to speak, she wheeled around everywhere in a wheelchair, but she was always smiling and was always great to everyone who came across her.”

Cathy Jordan’s life and legacy serve as a powerful reminder of the impact one person can have on a movement. Her relentless advocacy not only helped legalize medical cannabis in Florida but also inspired countless others to join the fight for patient rights and access to alternative treatments.

Her passing on Independence Day is a reminder of her spirit and determination. She fought for freedom—freedom from pain, freedom from legal constraints, and the freedom to choose one’s own path to wellness.

Featured Image Courtesy of the Cathy Jordan Movie Facebook Page

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