TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Do you think marijuana should be legalized for medical purposes?
State Rep. Katie Edwards says yes.
Edwards has filed a bill that would allow people suffering from cancer, Lou Gehrig's disease or other illnesses, to be able to use medical marijuana legally with a doctor's permission.
Thelegislation is namedafter Cathy Jordan, who has lived with ALS since 1986 and uses marijuana to alleviate her symptoms. Last month Manatee County sheriff's officers raided her home and seized more than 20 pot plants.
Rep. Edwards says six months ago she never could have imagined that she would sponsor this bill. But then she got sick, spent time in the hospital and realized she could not turn a blind eye to people's suffering.
Edwards believes medical marijuana can improve the quality of life for sick people and give them more dignity.
"One of the things Cathy shared with me, she goes, 'I'm able to smoke marijuana and it helps me from not drooling every day. That gives me some dignity to be able to communicate and talk to someone and not feel like an infant.' If this was your mother or your grandmother, if this is a person you love, I think you'd go to the end of the world to help get them the pain relief that they need to make them feel better."
Edwards' bill has not received a hearing yet in any committees and has virtually no chance of passing the Legislature this year. That makes her mad.
"I think shame on us as a Legislature for not taking advantage of this opportunity to hear the bill this year."
Rep. Edwards says now is the time for lawmakers to talk about the issue and consider how Florida would regulate and tax medical marijuana because she thinks voters will ultimately pass a constitutional amendment legalizing it.
Her bill would allow people to grow their own medical pot or have others grow it for them, and also regulate operations that cultivate medical marijuana.
Edwards sees the cultivation of medical marijuana as a potential new crop for Florida farmers.
"This is an additional source of revenue to help keep our family farms intact and so on a number of fronts I think this legislation makes sense economically, I think it makes sense from a compassion standpoint for patients and I think it's just good policy all the way around for our state."