Medical marijuana a possibility for Florida, but how?

By Margaret Kavanagh, Reporter
Last Updated: Thursday, March 07, 2013, 5:53 AM EST

Efforts are being ramped up at the state capitol to allow people with certain illnesses to legally smoke marijuana.

We told you about this in a recent report – but the question remains, how can states legalize the drug when it’s against federal law?

Florida State Senator Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, introduced the bill last week.  It's called the Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Act, SB 1250.

Representatives from Clemens office said if passed it would mean you can smoke marijuana if you’ve been medically diagnosed with a debilitating medical condition including epilepsy, chronic back pain, depression, multiple sclerosis, among other medical conditions.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is against such efforts – stating in a report, "smoked marijuana has not withstood the rigors of science - it is not medicine and it is not safe.”

Growing and smoking marijuana is against federal law, but a representative with the DEA say they don’t go after individual users, but rather drug traffickers. 

News 13 Legal Analyst Mark NeJame said, “unless it’s on federal land, you are not going to see a marijuana case that’s a few pounds or a handful of marijuana, it just doesn’t happen. The federal cases are big cases and multiple, multiple kilos.”

The DEA said normally cases they prosecute involve someone caught with at least 1,000 plants.

"The amount of marijuana that someone would have for personal consumption falls into the threshold that the feds ever prosecute – they are just two different things,” NeJame said.

Keep in mind that right now any form of marijuana is illegal in Florida.

Still, the debate continues. Two sides with strong opinions.

"Once you break down one thing what follows, and on the other hand we have to be reasonable," NeJame said. "You are not going to stop it.  Is it any different than prohibition?”

Under S.B. 1250, patients with certain qualifying medical conditions or their official caregiver could possess up to four ounces of marijuana and grow up to eight marijuana plants.

Also, dispensaries and cultivation facilities would be regulated by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

“Scientific research consistently validates the medical benefits of marijuana in the treatment of a variety of debilitating medical conditions,” said Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Seriously ill people who use marijuana to alleviate their pain and suffering should be allowed to access it safely and legally. They certainly should not be arrested and treated like criminals.”

"The bill is named in recognition of Cathy Jordan, president of the Florida Cannabis Action Network, who uses marijuana in the treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as 'Lou Gehrig's Disease'," Tvert said.

Last month Jordan's home was raided by police, who seized her medical marijuana.