|Irvin Rosenfeld holds up a tin of 300 federal joints. He receives one of these tins every 25 days.|
On a recent chilly morning, Fort Lauderdale, Florida stockbroker Irvin Rosenfeld interrupted his client calls for a quick joint in the company parking lot. Then he went back to work inside — and nobody said anything about the smell.
That joint — legal, for him — was one of more than 120,000 the federal government has given Irv at taxpayer expense for the past 29 years, reports Fred Tasker at the Miami Herald. Rosenfeld, 58, is one of only four people who remain in a now-closed “compassionate” drug program that, at its peak in the 1980s, provided 13 patients across the United States with marijuana to help manage medical conditions.
Rosenfeld smokes 10 to 12 government joints a day to help relieve a rare, painful condition called multiple congenital cartilaginous exostosis, which causes tumors to grow from the ends of his bones.
Not only does marijuana ease Rosenfeld’s pain and make his joints more flexible — for decades now, the tumors of have stopped growing, which Irv attributes to the pot.
His new self-published book, My Medicine: How I Convinced The Federal Government To Provide My Marijuana And Helped Launch A National Movement, tells the story of his cannabis use, and argues that the federal government should be more active in studying pot’s medical uses.
Rosenfeld, a native of Portsmouth, Virginia, praised the growing national movement to legalize medical marijuana, as 15 states have already done. The federal government — despite the fact that it provides medical cannabis to four patients, and has done so for decades — still classifies pot as a Schedule I controlled substance with no legitimate medical uses.
“The more places it’s legal, the more people will see it’s not dangerous and stop some of the hysteria,” Rosenfeld said.
Irv said cannabis has helped him stay healthy. He plays softball and even teaches a sailing class for the disabled in Coconut Grove.
“I’ve never missed a day of work due to illness,” Rosenfeld said. “I’m a very healthy disabled person.”
He tells his clients about the medical marijuana, and he has the blessing of his firm, Newbridge Securities Corporation of Fort Lauderdale.
The cannabis helps reduce Rosenfeld’s pain and thus improves his mobility by acting on his central nervous system, according to Dr. Charles Goldman, the Norfolk, Virginia endocrinologist who wrote the original application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for Rosenfeld’s medical marijuana.
“He had been taking another potent, controlled narcotic — Dilaudid — in significant amounts for severe pain,” Dr. Goldman said. “He was off Dilaudid entirely within six months.”
Goldman said he regularly checked Rosenfeld to be sure he could safely drive after smoking marijuana and determined he could do so. “I don’t know why,” he said.
For Rosenfeld, marijuana has been a blessing. His hereditary, incurable disease was diagnosed when he was only 10. “By 13, I was on Demerol for pain, and I couldn’t walk on my own,” he said.
After Rosenfeld finished high school, his doctor suggested a warmer climate might help ease his pain. He moved to South Miami in 1971, enrolling at Miami-Dade Community College.
Over the years, Irv treated his condition with prescription drugs including Percocet, Darvon, Dilaudid (synthetic morphine), Methaqualone and Valium.
But his life changed when he smoked a joint at a party.
“Then I realized something astonishing: I had been sitting down for 30 minutes!” Rosenfeld writes in his book. “This was the first time in five years I had sat still for longer than 10 minutes. Just then, the joint was passed to me. I looked at it and a lightbulb went off: I wonder if marijuana relaxed my legs?”
After that, Rosenfeld said he bought marijuana on the street. In 1977, he heard Washington glaucoma patient Robert Randall give a speech. Randall had been arrested two years earlier for growing marijuana to treat his glaucoma, and won his case by using a “medical necessity” defense.
Randall’s search for a legal way to use and get marijuana led him to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which had a contract under which the University of Mississippi grew cannabis for medical research. In 1976, the government created the Investigational New Drug Compassionate Access Program and gave Randall’s doctor access to marijuana from the university’s farm.
Rosenfeld, who had fruitlessly petitioned the FDA, introduced himself to Randall and, with his help, got into the program, though he had to sign a release promising he wouldn’t sue if he got lung cancer.
Every month since, NIDA picks up the marijuana, sends it to a lab in Raleigh, North Carolina to be rolled into joints, packs 300 doobies into a a tin and ships them to a pharmacy in Miami, where Rosenfeld picks them up. He has to pay about $50 to cover handling.
But the IND Compassionate Access Program created an unwelcome and awkward situation for the federal government: NIDA was supplying marijuana to patients whose physicians had secured FDA approval, at the same time the Drug Enforcement Administration said marijuana was illegal for any purpose, and was useless as medicine.
In 1992, as HIV and AIDS patients began flooding the program with marijuana requests, President George H.W. Bush’s administration closed it to new applicants.
“Our new president has pledged to bring about change,” Rosenfeld said. “Could there be a more dramatic change than ending medical cannabis prohibition? Cannabis works as a medicine. I’m living proof.”
Rosenfeld’s self-published book, My Medicine: How I Convinced The Federal Government To Provide My Marijuana And Helped Launch A National Movement, can be bought for $19.95 plus $5 shipping/handling at mymedicinethebook.com, or buy it at your local bookstore.