Today I share with you wonderful news from an all too conservative state, Florida, where the sun shines on everything but justice for cannabis users.
Just a few weeks ago, I announced that the ‘New NORML’ would have an active, working legal committeethat would make a difference for all of us.
Last month, State Senator Jeff Clemens in Tampa announced that he was introducing a medical marijuana bill in Florida, which would allow for the establishment of dispensaries in our state.
The bill was named the ‘Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Act’, in honor of a woman who has beenopenly using cannabis as medicine for over a quarter century, championing our cause from her wheelchair while living with an incurable condition- ALS; Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Backed by her loving husband, Bob, who cultivates two-dozen plants on their farm for her personal use, Cathy has been a public advocate for cannabis law reform. Here she is:
One day after the state senator introduced the medical necessity legislation, publicizing her name and address, the DEA and Manatee County Sheriff’s Office paid her a not-too-polite visit, raiding her home, dressed in swat uniforms, armed with machine guns and wearing masks, seizing her cannabis and arresting her husband for cultivation. Her wheelchair was no defense.
One NORML lawyer from our NLC legal committee immediately stepped up to the plate to come to her defense. Florida CAN, the Cannabis Action Network, contacted Michael C. Minardi, of Stuart, Florida. He undertook the defense.
Michael had already prevailed on a medical necessity case on the west coast of Florida, and he at once met with Bob and Cathy Jordan. Both were adamant that they would take no pleas, but instead sought to fight for their right to use marijuana as medicine.
Based in South Florida, I volunteered with another NLC Committee member, my law office partner, Russell Cormican, and entered into a civil retainer agreement with Cathy Jordan, to prosecute a pro bono civil legal action seeking a declaratory judgment that Cathy’s possession of cannabis warranted a judicial order stating that such ownership was entirely medicinal and lawful.
I could not do it alone, so I contacted NLC Committee member Matt Kumin, who immediately agreed to join the cause on behalf of NORML, coming in as amicus curiae. “This is an impact case,” he concluded.
Together, we decided that we had a viable claim Cathy had a legal right to grow her medicine, and a court would conclude as much. Matt brought in two more NLC colleagues, Alan Silber and David Michael. These guys are already arguing tough cases in the Ninth Circuit. But we have a good plaintiff and a strong case.
This past Monday, the State Attorney dismissed all charges against Cathy and Bob Jordan. The decision by the State Attorney, explaining why he filed a ‘no information.” ratifies the defense of medical necessity for patients, and caregivers as well. The prosecutor’s determination goes beyond the customary and routine post of ‘case declined.’
The decision outlined by the chief prosecutor goes out of its way to acknowledge the legal basis of the medical necessity defense and the ‘progressive, neurodegenerative disease’ that Cathy Jordan deals with daily. The state attorney said he could not in ‘good faith’ proceed with a criminal prosecution against an individual with such a compelling medical reason to use marijuana. It was a courageous decision to see a prosecutor protect a pot patient.
The result came about in no small part to Bob Jordan, Cathy Jordan’s husband. He refused to accept a probationary plea offer. “If I could handle Vietnam,” he told me last week, “I can take whatever the State wants to try and hit me with. I am protecting my wife. No deals. No nothing. I want a trial. I want a jury to see my wife and try to convict her.”
Michael C. Minardi and his client even refused to cop a plea to a deferred prosecution. Matt. Kumin, who has never met Bob, called him, “my hero.” Armed with solid case law, a determined defendant, and a courageous lawyer- Michael Minardi- the good guys prevailed.
A talented team of NLC amicus curiae attorneys are now preparing to go to court and seek a judgment declaring that the use of cannabis by Cathy Jordan should continue as an exception to Florida drug statutes, based on her use being lawful, medically necessary, and legally protected. Hell, we might even get her pot back through a replevin action.
Unfortunately, Florida is a conservative state. I won’t mislead you. The Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Bill is already ‘stuck like chuck’ in a legislative committee.
However, also due to the efforts of NLC Committee member, Michael C. Minardi, the criminal prosecution of Cathy and Bob Jordan is dead in the water.
Remember the TV show, ‘The Naked City,’ that ‘there are 8 million stories in the Naked City; this has been one of them.’
My friends, there are thousands of Cathy Jordans across America who still need our help. There are hundreds of you capable of assisting so many of them. The spiritual rewards of engaging such tasks enrich your soul and make your practice so much more meaningful.
Please consider also asking a friend to help expand ranks by joining NORML today. In fact, this week we are promoting new memberships by offering up a NORML Hemp Baseball Cap. Wear it to the ballpark, and let everyone know that it is NORML to smoke pot. Cheer for your home team, but stand up for freedom.
Today, all of us throughout the country celebrate the victory of Cathy and Bob Jordan. We also thank the lawyer, Michael C. Minardi of Stuart, Florida, who stood up for them.
We are all cannabis warriors with stories of our own to tell, lives of our friends to illuminate. Never forget the cause you are fighting for is more than to torch up a joint. It is to light a torch for personal sovereignty and individual freedom.
Chair, NORML Board of Directors
Leaders from numerous NORML chapters were present and addressed the crowd including Patrick Nightingale from Pittsburgh NORML, Evan Nison from NJ NORML, Kevin Clough and Joe Forte of Philly NORML, and Erik Williams of Connecticut NORML. They were joined by notable speakers including Gabriel Sayegh (DPA), Ken Wolski (CMMNJ), Rob Cantrell (Stand-up Comedian), Stacia Cosner (SSDP), Mike Liszewski (ASA), Marc Connuck (PA Farmers for Hemp), Jahan Marcu (PhD Candidate, Temple Medical School), Mallory Loflin (SUNY Albany), as well as Erik Altieri and Allen St. Pierre (National NORML). NORML Board of Directors members Rick Cusick and Diane Fornbacher also were on panels.
Attendees were treated to an engaging keynote address from State Senator Daylin Leach, the primary sponsor of Pennsylvania’s legalization bill. You can view highlights of the speech here and the full video here.
Also featured was Pennsylvania State Representative Mark Cohen, a long time supporter of marijuana law reform in the state, who gave those present advice on how they could best aid their lawmakers in their efforts.
The evening ended with a Private Fundraiser featuring entertainment from the likes of comedian Rob Cantrell and local Philadelphia reggae act, Cultureal.
You can read some coverage of the event below:
Philly.com – Philly420: Cannabis for St. Patrick’s in Philly
PhillyRecord – Leach: Pa. GOP Senators Support Legal Pot – On The QT
CannaCentral – NORML Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference
Live Illustrations of Panel Content by Jonny Goldstein
NORML is pleased to announce the first ever Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference in Philadelphia, PA is just over a week away.
The conference will feature a day of enlightening panel discussions and speakers on topics ranging from new reform strategies, recent legislative efforts, the science of medical cannabis, and much more. Hear from some of the most experienced and insightful marijuana law reformers working the the Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York area.
Pennsylvania State Senator, and sponsor of PA’s legalization bill, Daylin Leach will be giving a keynote address discussing his work on the issue, his recent legislation, and experience working for reform as a sitting politician. Don’t miss it!
(subject to change)
11:00 – 11:10
Conference Welcome – Kevin Clough, Executive Director (Philly NORML)
11:15 – 12:15
New Strategies for Reform
Moderator: Derek Rosenzweig (PhillyNORML)
Erik Williams, Executive Director (CTNORML & CampaignsWon)
Stacia Cosner, Associate Director (SSDP)
Diane Fornbacher, Vice-Chair (NORML Women’s Alliance), NORML Board of Directors
BREAK FOR LUNCH
1:10 – 2:10
Medical Marijuana Moving Forward
Moderator: Mike Liszewski, Policy Director (Americans for Safe Access)
Mallory Loflin, Graduate Student (SUNY)
Jahan Marcu, PhD Candidate (Temple Medical School)
Ken Wolski, Executive Director (Coalition Medical Marijuana New Jersey)
2:10 – 3:00
KEYNOTE: Pennsylvania State Senator. Daylin Leach
3:00 – 3:10
3:15 – 4:15
Pot and Politics 2013
Moderator: Erik Altieri, Communications Director (National NORML)
Patrick Nightingale, Executive Director (PittsburghNORML)
Evan Nison, Executive Director (NJ NORML)
Gabriel Sayegh, State Director (DPA New York)
4:20 – 5:20
Cannabis, Canvas, and Culture
Moderator: Joe Forte, Secretary (PhillyNORML)
Rob Cantrell, Comedian
Marc Connuck, Activist (Pennsylvania Farmers For Industrial Hemp)
Rick Cusick, Associate Publisher (HighTimes) and NORML Board of Directors
Closing Remarks: Allen St. Pierre (National NORML)
Panel sessions will be held during the day in Claudia Cohen Hall at the University of Pennsylvania and the night will end with a private fundraiser featuring live entertainment from comedian Rob Cantrell and local musical act Cultureal. There will also be food, drink, a silent auction, and more at a private venue nearby. Ticket holders will receive fundraiser details prior to the event.
Reserve your tickets today, space is limited and going fast!
Hope to see you in the City of Brotherly Love next week.
According to survey data released this week by The Field Poll, a record number of Californians now support legalizing and regulating marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol.
The poll, conducted February 5-17 among 834 registered California voters, found that 54% support making the use of marijuana legal, with age and other controls like those that apply to alcohol, only 43% were opposed. This is the highest level of support for legalization since The Field Poll began asking the question. In their 2010 poll, only 50% of California voters supported legalization and 46% were opposed.
This survey also found that an overwhelming 72% of Californians support the state’s medical marijuana program and 52% favor allowing medical marijuana dispensaries to open in their town.
California narrowly rejected Proposition 19 to legalize marijuana in 2010, but clearly public opinion has continued to move in our favor since then. It is reasonable to expect that by 2016, when many believe there will be another voter initiative to legalize marijuana, support will have reached the critical mass required to approve of such a measure.
You can view the full poll results here.
NORML is pleased to announce the first ever Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference in Philadelphia, PA on March 16th, 2013!
The conference will feature a day of enlightening panel discussions and speakers on topics ranging from new reform strategies, recent legislative efforts, the science of medical cannabis, and much more. Hear from some of the most experienced and insightful marijuana law reformers working in the Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York area. Speakers include Ken Wolski (CMMNJ), Stacia Cosner (Associate Director, Students for Sensible Drug Policy), Erik Williams (CampaignsWon, Executive Director CT NORML), Gabriel Sayegh (NY State Director, Drug Policy Alliance), Mallory Loflin (Graduate Student, SUNY-Albany), Evan Nison (Executive Director, NJNORML), Patrick Nightingale (Criminal Defense Attorney, Executive Director Pittsburgh NORML), Erik Altieri (Communications Director, National NORML), Allen St. Pierre (Executive Director, National NORML) and more to be announced soon…KEYNOTE SPEAKER: Pennsylvania State Senator, and sponsor of PA’s legalization bill, Daylin Leach will be giving a keynote address discussing his work on the issue, his recent legislation, and experience working for reform as a sitting politician. Don’t miss it!
Panel sessions will be held during the day in Claudia Cohen Hall at the University of Pennsylvania and the night will end with a fundraiser featuring live entertainment, a silent auction, and more at a local venue to be announced shortly.
Reserve your space today. You can purchase tickets to the panel sessions for $40 and tickets to the fundraiser for $20. A limited quantity of combo-passes are also available for $50, giving you access to both events.
Further information, including agenda, more speakers, entertainment and more will be forthcoming.
Hope to see you in the City of Brotherly Love this March.