Florida Stockbroker Marks 20 Year Anniversary of Federally-Supplied Medical Marijuana

Press Release November 19, 2002
Media Contact

Tony Newman at 510-208-7711 or Shayna Samuels at 646-523-6961

The federal government has been growing and supplying medicinal marijuana for 24 years under a program launched in 1978. Wednesday, November 20, marks Irvin Rosenfeld’s 20th anniversary with the program. A lifelong sufferer of multiple congenital cartilaginous exostosis, a disease that causes painful and potentially cancerous growths throughout his body, the Florida stockbroker has been smoking federal marijuana that has been denied to thousands of others.

“When it comes to medicinal marijuana, the hypocrisy of the federal government knows no bounds,” said Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance, the nation’s leading organization promoting alternatives to the war on drugs. “Even though the federal government is required to supply medical marijuana to a small number of patients, they are denying legal access to thousands of others.”

“I have had a very successful career as an award-winning stockbroker and a rewarding, high quality of life. That life would have been utterly impossible without my use of this medicine. I would have been unable to serve my clients and contribute to my community and the economy,” said Rosenfeld. “I get no euphoric effect from cannabis. I have never gotten high.”

Rosenfeld is one of seven people still enrolled in the federal program, which began in 1978 after a federal court ruled a glaucoma patient’s use of marijuana was not criminal, but an act of “medical necessity.” Since the program’s inception, 14 total patients have been enrolled. Robert Randall, who was the first to enroll with the program’s inception in 1978, passed away in May of 2001. Rosenfeld was the second to enroll.

Rosenfeld’s anniversary falls at a critical moment in the national debate over medical marijuana. A recent TIME magazine cover story noted that 80 percent of Americans support making marijuana available medicinally. Indeed, since 1996 voters have approved legalization of medical marijuana in California, Alaska, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Colorado, Maine and Hawaii.

On October 29, 2002, a unanimous panel of the United States Court of Appeals issued a landmark medical marijuana decision in the case Conant v. Walters. The court upheld the First Amendment constitutional right of physicians to recommend medical marijuana to their patients — and the patients’ constitutional right to receive such recommendations from their physicians.

The federal government provides medicinal marijuana to Rosenfeld and six others, an explicit acknowledgement of the drug’s potential medicinal value. In 1978, as part of a lawsuit settlement by the Department of Health and Human Services, the government began supplying cannabis to patients under so-called “compassionate use” Investigational New Drug Applications. In 1991 the government closed the Compassionate IND program because of excessive demand. Of the seven patients still receiving medical marijuana under a grandfather clause, Rosenfeld has been enrolled the longest.

The legal future is not secure for medicinal marijuana, which has been found by patients to provide relief for symptoms of cancer, HIV/AIDS and multiple sclerosis. The same federal government that is growing and supplying pain-relieving cannabis to Rosenfeld and six others is clamping down on anyone else who seeks legal access to identical amelioration. The Drug Enforcement Administration has used taxpayer dollars to raid many medical cooperatives in California (where medical use of marijuana has been legalized by those taxpayers), menacing them in Santa Cruz, Oakland, Los Angeles and San Diego. These raids have been followed by protests, a harsh letter from California Attorney General Bill Lockyer to DEA Administrator Asa Hutchinson, and, in several instances, a lack of formal charges being filed.

For now, Rosenfeld continues to smoke up to twelve federally-supplied cannabis cigarettes a day. To commemorate his anniversary, he will be holding a press conference to discuss medical marijuana and Compassionate IND at 10 a.m. Wednesday, November 20, at the Coastal Towers in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., (2400 East Commercial Blvd., Suite 708). For more information, contact Tony Newman at 510-208-7711.

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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