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Cathy Jordan, ‘Patron Saint’ Of Medical Cannabis, Dies At 74

Image of Cathy Jordan via Cathy Jordan Movie Facebook

“I really don’t have much respect for politicians. They just close their mind … and don’t open it and look into things.”

Cathy Jordan, who credited medical cannabis for keeping her alive for decades after she was diagnosed with ALS, died on July 4 at her home in South Florida at the age of 74.

The news was relayed to the public on Thursday by Jodi James, president of the Florida Cannabis Action Network, who said she received a phone call from Cathy’s son, John, informing her that Jordan had died at around 4 p.m. that afternoon.

Jordan was labeled the “patron saint” of medical marijuana in Florida for her long-term advocacy of the plant, dating to the late 1990s.

Originally from Delaware, Jordan was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” in 1986. Patients typically live for two to five years after symptoms develop but Jordan lived for 38 years after her diagnosis.

She said everything changed for her while visiting Florida in 1989, when a friend offered her a strain of cannabis called Myakka Gold.

“I smoked it and I felt the disease stop,” she told Dr. Andrew Weil in a scene shown in the documentary, “The Cathy Jordan Story.”  She described how she smuggled that cannabis on a plane to Delaware. “I flew home that way, and my husband had a nervous breakdown because I was interstate transporting drugs, but I was convinced I was going to live.”

Jordan decided with her husband, Bob, to move Parrish, in Manatee County, and began using cannabis regularly, which she said improved her physically and mentally.

Jordan attended and spoke at a hemp festival at Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa in the late 1990s, organized by the Florida Cannabis Action Network, where James first met her.

“She and I worked together hand-in-glove for 27 years,” James said on Friday.

Jordan would go on to become a full-time activist pushing to get medical marijuana legalized in Florida and ultimately became president of the Florida Cannabis Action Network from 2011-2015. She remained on the board of directors with the group.


Her journey to allow for the medicinal use of cannabis was an arduous one, as other states around the nation began passing laws legalizing its use. Jordan would make the trek to Tallahassee to lobby lawmakers to approve medical cannabis but those bills went nowhere in the GOP-controlled House and Senate, including what was called the “Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Act,” in 2013, which never got a committee hearing.

“I really don’t have much respect for politicians. They just close their mind … and don’t open it and look into things,” she said in the Cathy Jordan Story.

Within a week of the Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Act being introduced during the 2013 legislative session, Bob Jordan was arrested for possession of cannabis plants and charged with 23 counts of cultivation. It was a strain that he had he had developed specifically for her condition. The charges were ultimately dropped.

In 2014, organizers placed a medical marijuana constitutional amendment before the voters. While it received 57% support, that wasn’t enough to get over the 60% threshold required for passage. The amendment did pass in 2016 with more than 71%. However, the Florida Legislature passed an implementing bill in 2017 that banned use of smokable marijuana. That prompted a lawsuit, which led to Jordan testifying against the law in Leon County Circuit Court in 2018.

“It was absolutely amazing, being in the courtroom with Cathy Jordan as she discussed the value of having access to smokable cannabis was pivotal,” James recounted.

DeSantis on board

Shortly after he was elected in 2019, Gov. Ron DeSantis said, “I don’t think this [the medical marijuana] law is up to snuff,” and told Republicans that he wanted the Legislature to repeal the law’s ban on smokable pot for sick people.

“If you had told me 22 years ago that this was going to take 22 years, I may have rethought it,” Jordan told Spectrum Bay News in 2019, when DeSantis signed legislation allowing smokable cannabis.

The news of her passing hit the cannabis community in Florida hard on Friday.

“She was instrumental in getting medical [cannabis] passed, and getting any kind of cannabis legislation moved here in Florida, and we were privileged to have her speak at a few events,” says Pete Sessa, a co-founder of the Florida Cannabis Coalition and Cannadelic, an annual cannabis and hemp festival next scheduled to take place this weekend in St. Petersburg. “She was just an amazing woman and such a big loss to the community. She really was just the patron saint of cannabis here in Florida.”

“She lived more than 30 years [after her ALS diagnosis] by smoking joints,” said Carlos Hermida, who owns two hemp shops in the Tampa Bay area. “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, so it really is a dark day in the movement that she’s not around anymore.”

“Cathy Jordan was born on Jan. 1. She was a New Years Day baby, and she left us on Independence Day,” said James. “Any other day would have just been boring, and Cathy is nothing If not interesting, and so her passing on the Fourth of July was just auspicious.”

This article was republished from the Florida Phoenix under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. You can read the original version here.