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  • November 20 2012

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    Irv Rosenfeld’s 30th Anniversary of Getting Marijuana from the Feds

    Today is a notable occasion. It is the 30th anniversary of a Florida man gaining the ability to use marijuana for medical purposes and of the beginning of a bafflingly hypocritical stance by the federal government.

    One of the strangest ironies in the government’s war on marijuana is demonstrated by a man named Irv Rosenfeld. The federal authorities still officially maintain the legal fiction that marijuana has no accepted medical use; the substance is still classified in Schedule I, and medical marijuana providers are still raided and prosecuted by the DEA. Yet, the federal government has been producing and delivering marijuana to Rosenfeld for decades. Rosenfeld suffers from a rare bone disorder, multiple congenital cartilaginous exostoses, in which cancerous spurs of bone grow outward through his body, causing extreme pain and necessitating six surgeries to date. To treat his condition, he receives approximately 300 pre-rolled marijuana cigarettes from the federal government every 25 days.

    The marijuana is produced at the University of Mississippi as part of the Compassionate Investigational New Drug program. This program, administered by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, was first established in response to the successful lawsuit against the government on behalf of Robert Randall. Randall, a glaucoma patient, was arrested for growing his own medicine in 1975, but successfully employed a “medical necessity” defense. Since it was established that marijuana was the only medicine that worked to control his glaucoma, it was argued that any sensible person in such a situation would violate the marijuana laws rather than allowing themselves to go blind. The program currently supplies medical marijuana to only four known surviving patients; it was closed to new applicants by the first Bush administration in 1991, rejecting hundreds of already filed applications.

    Rosenfeld works as a stockbroker. Contrary to official innuendo about the incapacitating effects of the marijuana “high,” he shows all signs of being fully functional while smoking 10-12 joints per day. Federal anti-drug authorities show no interest in studying his case, while simultaneously complaining of the lack of evidence for the medical efficacy or safety of smoked marijuana. They are apparently also not concerned with the 1988 ruling of the DEA’s own Chief Administrative Law Judge, Francis Young, who found that “marijuana has been accepted as capable of relieving the distress of great numbers of very ill people” and is “one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man.” The federal government even holds a patent for the medical use of cannabinoids, chemicals found in marijuana.

    Rosenfeld will be in Illinois from Tuesday through Thursday of next week, in support of the medical marijuana bill under consideration in the state legislature. Anyone interested in interviewing him should contact Morgan Fox, either through email at media@mpp.org or by phone at 202-905-2031.

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