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A breeze billows the pungent smoke from the marijuana cigarette around
his face, and Irvin Rosenfeld immediately feels better.

A stock broker, Rosenfeld deals with millions of dollars while smoking
up to 12 joints daily - marijuana he gets from the federal government
to treat a rare bone ailment.

"It has made my life much easier to live and kept my condition in
check," Rosenfeld said Wednesday, 20 years to the day he received his
first marijuana shipment from the government under a program which
today has only six other members.

Marijuana in any form is illegal in the United States, though dozens
of states have passed or considered laws directed at marijuana reforms.

Rosenfeld, 49, suffers from two rare conditions which cause tumors to
grow on his long bones. They cause severe muscle spasms, internal
bleeding and unbearable pain. He would be unable to walk at any time
because his muscles would give out.

He spent more than 15 years taking prescription drugs, including
morphine. But they couldn't prevent late night spasms and the constant
pain which made his life a nightmare.

"He would scream out in the middle of the night and I would wake up,
and he'd be dragging himself on the floor," said his wife, Debbie.
(Marijuana) has given us a better life together."

Rosenfeld, with his doctor's support, was placed in Uncle Sam's
medical marijuana program in 1982. The program stopped accepting new
patients in 1992.

He says he hasn't had a new tumor since and plays softball once a
week, though he uses a designated runner. He gets 11 ounces of
marijuana, rolled in cigarettes, delivered monthly to a local
pharmacy, and he only pays courier costs. Marijuana is now his only

"I could never pay enough taxes to repay the government for what it
has done for me," Rosenfeld said, estimating it would have cost
$800,000 to keep him on various conventional medications.

In the next breath, Rosenfeld chastises the government for failing to
recognize cannabis as a medicine, and letting people "suffer

"There are hundreds of thousands of people who want marijuana to feel
better, not to get high," said Rosenfeld. "People who are using it for
medicine are being put in jail."

Marijuana law easements failed in three states in November, though
eight states have approved medical marijuana and 35 states have passed
legislation recognizing marijuana's medicinal value despite the
federal prohibition.

In the past year, DEA agents have raided several medical marijuana
providers in California, mostly without support from local law

Rosenfeld wants the federal government to begin compassionate care
programs where universities would provide marijuana for those
suffering from AIDS, multiple sclerosis, cancer and other debilitating
diseases, while researching its effects.

He claims he never has gotten high from the weed.

"If I want to feel euphoria, I'll drink a little Jack Daniels," he
joked. "I'm not some drug crazed hippie."

Rosenfeld has had run-ins with police and other legal battles. He was
arrested in Orlando in 1983 for smoking in a restroom during a
business convention. The charges were eventually dropped and his
record cleared.

He's been stopped by officers while smoking in his car, but he's let
go once he displays his prescription. People give him funny looks when
smoking in airports or other public places, and some have asked to bum
a drag. He doesn't let them.

Rosenfeld also is suing Delta Airlines, saying an employee told him he
could not board the plane with his canister of legal cannabis. A trial
has not been scheduled.

Dr. Ethan Russo wrote an article on Rosenfeld after giving him a
battery of tests over a two day period. Russo, a neurologist in
Missoula, Mont., said Rosenfeld has normal lung capacity and a
functioning immune system.

"The cannabis he receives acts as a muscle relaxant and an analgesic,"
Russo said. "It reduces pain at the tissue level, and the spinal cord
and brain levels."

Rosenfeld exhibits none of the lethargy, lack of short term memory or
other common effects of marijuana. He makes sure to tell every one of
his new clients about his treatment.

Rosenfeld smoked marijuana as a treatment for several years before
joining the federal program, buying from dealers on the street. If the
president should decide to stop providing the cannabis, then he would
be forced to get it illegally, he said.

He gets support from his family and members of his synagogue, and is
vehement that science, not politics or big business, should determine
what medicine is legal.

"It's up to the patient to decide his quality of life," he said.

Pubdate: Wed, 20 Nov 2002
Webpage: Article 404 - Sarasota Herald-Tribune - Sarasota, FL
Source: Sarasota Herald-Tribune (FL)
Copyright: 2002 Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Contact: editor.letters@herald-trib.com
Website: Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Local & World News, Sports & Entertainment in Sarasota, FL
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