By STEPHEN NOHLGREN
Tampa Bay Times
PARRISH — Sitting at the kitchen table in her wheelchair, arms useless at her sides, Cathy Jordan begins another day with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Lou Gehrig's disease.
She turns expectantly to her husband, Robert, who fires up a pungent joint and holds it to her lips. Smoke curls through her blond hair as she inhales, holds and exhales.
Jordan is well into her third decade with a disease that often kills within five years. She credits marijuana with slowing progression of the condition that destroys nerve cells, ultimately leading to total paralysis and death.
"This is keeping me alive,'' she says. It also eases her symptoms such as muscle stiffening, drooling and chronic lung congestion. How does she know it's working? Whenever she is hospitalized and can't have pot, the symptoms come back.
Jordan, 63, is a medical anomaly for how long she has survived with ALS.
She is also a criminal, breaking the law with every puff.
And she is a symbol of a fight unfolding this summer that could redefine Florida not only medically, but politically and culturally, too. Legalizing marijuana, even for medicinal purposes, might seem an extraordinary step in this state. But polls show support for the measure crosses political party lines. And as baby boomers who may have used pot in their youth feel the impact of age, they may add to the push for legalization.
Eighteen states and the District of Columbia allow marijuana use for medical purposes. But for the most part they are in liberal Western and Northeastern areas or in Rocky Mountain states with libertarian bents. None is in the South.
Florida is a national bellwether, says John Morgan, the Orlando attorney familiar to millions from his "For the People'' TV ads. He has stepped onto a new platform: the push to legalize medicinal marijuana..........