Uncle Sam Is His Dealer

LEAVES OF GRASS: Since 1983, the U.S. government has given chronic-pain patient Irvin Rosenfeld $1.2 million worth of marijuana.

Meet the chronic-pain patient who talked the feds into supplying him with free, legal medical marijuana for the last 34 years.

You’ve probably heard about our guest today, maybe not by name but certainly by way of urban legend. The story goes like this: In Mississippi, the U.S. government has been growing marijuana for decades and giving the crop for free to a small, select group of Americans suffering from chronic pain and other serious medical conditions. And it’s all perfectly legal. According to this urban legend, these recipients could walk up to the door of the nearest DEA office, light up a joint made from government-provided weed, and not get arrested. What’s more, anywhere in the U.S. that it’s legal to smoke a cigarette, it’s legal for these people to smoke marijuana.

“The cop comes up to me and says, ‘My God, you reek of marijuana!’ I said, ‘I know. I just smoked two joints coming here. I’ve got a prescription for it.’”

Well, the story’s not just an urban legend. And today, we talk to one of those recipients, Irvin Rosenfeld. He’s a 63-year-old Florida stockbroker who’s received free U.S.-government-approved marijuana for more than three decades. He uses it to treat chronic pain caused by congenital bone tumors that conventional drugs failed to alleviate. That’s right: the same federal government that locks up thousands of people for using marijuana has also been doling out marijuana to Rosenfeld.

We chat with him about how he persuaded the feds to stop bogarting the pot; what the rest of us with chronic pain can learn from his decades-long reliance on medical marijuana; and what happened the day he lit up one of his legal joints at Disneyworld.

Today, Rosenfeld talks about:

•  How he went from being the Nancy “Just Say No” Reagan of his high school to discovering that marijuana drastically reduced his severe chronic pain

•  Why marijuana surpasses prescription painkillers at controlling his pain and allowing him to live a full, active life that includes sailing and playing softball

•  How he uses marijuana on a daily basis to rein in his severe chronic pain

•  How he pulled off the nearly impossible feat of persuading the U.S. government to provide him with a legal, lifetime supply of medical marijuana

•  What the same amount of pot would have cost him if he’d bought in on the streets instead of getting it free from the federal government

•  Why this successful stockbroker’s clients are happy to trust their investments with a guy who smokes 10 joints a day

•  The Kafkaesque craziness that can happen when he smokes marijuana in public and can’t convince local police that he’s toking legally

Interviewee:

Irvin Rosenfeld has experienced pain from congenital bone tumors since he was a boy. He works as a stockbroker. In addition, he’s a board member of Patients Out of Time, a nonprofit organization that advocates for the legalization of medical marijuana as a legitimate medicine. He’s also a director and co-founder of The Silver Tour, a campaign to educate older people about the medicinal benefits of marijuana and encourage them to vote for its legalization. He recounts his experiences in his riveting autobiography, My Medicine: How I Convinced the U.S. Government to Provide My Marijuana and Helped Launch a National Movement.

Straight from the lab:

Wondering if medical marijuana might be an effective treatment for chronic pain? Scientists have been asking that same question. Explore this sampling of their research to date:

•  The Missoula Chronic Clinical Cannabis Use Study investigated marijuana’s long-term effect on Irvin Rosenfeld and three other people receiving legal marijuana through the U.S. government’s Compassionate Investigational New Drug Program.

•  This systematic review of 79 randomized controlled trials studied marijuana as a possible treatment for chronic pain from a variety of causes, including cancer pain, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis-related spasticity, diabetic neuropathy, HIV-associated sensory neuropathy, chemotherapy-induced pain. This review also explored marijuana’s effect on chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting, HIV-related wasting syndrome and sleep disorders.

•  This review of 28 randomized clinical trials analyzed marijuana’s effect on chronic pain, neuropathic pain and multiple sclerosis-related spasticity.

•  This double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study gauged marijuana’s ability to ease neuropathic pain.

•  This systematic review of 18 randomized trials analyzed marijuana’s pain-relieving effect on noncancer pain, including neuropathic pain, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis and mixed chronic pain.

•  This prospective trial investigated marijuana’s ability to reduce symptoms of Crohn’s disease.

•  This randomized controlled trial tested whether smoking marijuana helped people reduce the severity of their neuropathic pain and get a better night’s sleep.

•  This review article analyzed the effect of marijuana and other alternative treatments on the symptoms of multiple sclerosis and other serious ailments.

•  This meta-analysis of five randomized controlled trials explored the effectiveness of inhaled marijuana at easing neuropathic pain.

•  This review article investigated the effectiveness of various forms of marijuana and other types of alternative therapy at relieving multiple-sclerosis-related symptoms.

Music:

Our theme song is “Gentle Storm,” composed and performed by Betsy Tinney (betsytinney.com).

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