JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Several efforts to legalize medical marijuana are gaining momentum in both Florida and Georgia.
Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers are proposing bills that would legalize a different form of cannabis, giving medical patients an alternative treatment. And in November, Floridians will be able to vote in a statewide referendum.
Medicinal marijuana has yet to gain approval from the Food and Drug Administration, and opponents argue more tests and studies need to be done proving its medical benefits. Yet there are parents willing to take a chance on this alternative form of medicine with their children, saying it's their last hope.
In December of 2013, Cathy Klein, along with thousands of volunteers worked feverishly to collect enough signatures to get medical marijuana on Florida's November ballot. Now, two months later she says, "I know in my heart it's going to be legalized."
Nearly 700,000 signatures collected and validated, the decision is now in the hands of Florida voters. At the same time, state lawmakers in both Florida and Georgia are working towards finding their version of a solution for sick patients.
In Georgia HB 885, known as "Haleigh's Hope" would utilize academic medical centers in state, allowing them to study marijuana in a controlled clinical setting.
Monday, Florida State Representatives Jeff Clemens and Joe Saunders held a press conference supporting the Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Act, which would create a medicinal marijuana program that allows access to cannabis for medical treatment. It would also regulate when and how it can be cultivated, dispensed, and used.
House Bill 843, Klein says is a light at the end of the tunnel. Her 9-year-old son Sean endures several seizures every single day.
"I am very excited," said Klein. "That is our golden ticket right there. That is what we're after, is Charlotte's Web for Sean."
The measure would legalize an extract of a cannabis strain known as Charlotte's Web. Proponents say it reduces seizures in children with severe forms of epilepsy.
"It makes me tear up to think about it," said Klein. "To have a day where he doesn't have seizures would be so huge."
Florida Governor Rick Scott has opposed the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes in state. Some opponents say it's dangerous and addictive. Still, parents like Klein say they're willing to take a chance.
"I don't remember his personality anymore," said Klein about her son. "He's been on seizure medications for so long. It would just be nice to get my child back."
According to a Quinnipiac University poll, 82 percent of voters want doctors to be able to prescribe marijuana.
Medical marijuana is now legal in 20 states, along with the District of Columbia.