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Lake Worth Legislator Pushing Medical Marijuana Bill

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Florida has some of the nation's toughest anti-marijuana laws. For instance, anyone caught growing at least 25 plants in their home can be charged with a second-degree felony and face a maximum sentence of 15 years. Even the feds aren't that draconian. They at least give you 99 plants before charging you with a trafficking charge.

But now state Sen. Jeff Clemens, a Democrat from Lake Worth, is aiming to provide some green relief to people who use marijuana to treat their illnesses. On Wednesday, Clemens introduced a bill that would allow patients with certain medical conditions, such as AIDS or multiple sclerosis, to possess four ounces of pot or grow up to eight plants.

See also:
- 70 Percent of Floridians Support Legalization of Medical Marijuana
- Miami's grow houses

He named it the Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Act. Jordan is an elderly medical pot activist whose home in Bradenton was coincidentally raided by police Monday. Two Manatee County Sheriff's deputies confiscated 23 plants in her garden. Her husband explained to the cops that Jordan uses pot to self-medicate. She has been using marijuana to treat her Lou Gehrig's disease since 1986. The cops didn't arrest her. However, they did send a report to the Manatee County State Attorney's Office, which could still press charges against Jordan.

Under Clemens's measure, Jordan could grow eight plants without a problem. The bill would also require the Department of Business and Professional Regulation to license and regulate medical marijuana dispensaries and cultivation facilities. Activist group the People United for Medical Marijuana recently released poll results indicating seven in ten Floridians support medical marijuana.

However, legislators in Tallahassee have not been high on medical marijuana. Two years ago, they rejected Clemens's bill to place a constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana on the ballot. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia allow patients with qualifying conditions to use medical marijuana with recommendations from their physicians. Lawmakers in 13 other states have proposed similar legislation this year, and medical marijuana bills are expected to be brought forward in an additional four states.

Follow Francisco Alvarado: @thefrankness.

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