Medical marijuana users look to change law

February 17, 2005

Phil Davidson , Pantagraph (Illinois)

SPRINGFIELD -- A state government building is about the last place a marijuana user would go armed with a tin containing 300 joints.

When you're one of seven federally sponsored medical marijuana patients, however, you can bring your marijuana anywhere you want.

Irvin Rosenfeld, a 51-year-old stockbroker from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., testified before a state House committee Thursday on a measure that would allow a person with a debilitating medical condition to possess 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana.

Immediately after the two-hour committee session in the Stratton Building, secretary of state police officers stopped Rosenfeld and asked to see the contents of his silver tin, which contained dozens of marijuana cigarettes and roughly 2 ounces of cannabis. Rosenfeld was ushered to a security office where his credentials were verified by his pharmacist and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Although Rosenfeld was cleared, lawmakers defeated the legislation he supported by a 7-4 vote.

State Sen. Larry McKeon, D-Chicago, sponsored the measure that was rejected in the House Human Services Committee. The proposal drew the attention of the White House, which sent National Drug Control Policy Director John Walters to testify against the measure.

Walters said medical marijuana laws make a game of law enforcement by adopting vague control measures regarding who is allowed to grow and distribute the drug.

'There is very loose, unscientific basis for claiming medical conditions,' he said. 'If some medical professional says you have it, you have it.'

Rosenfeld is the longest surviving federal marijuana smoker in the United States. He receives 300 joints a month for a rare disease that causes tumors to grow on his bones, leaving him in excruciating pain.

For 22 years, Rosenfeld has been a participant in a federal program that provides marijuana for patients with ailments lacking known treatments.

The diminutive Rosenfeld, who smokes 12 marijuana cigarettes a day, said his experience with the secretary of state police shows the hassles that people with legitimate medical needs can go through.

'It's sad, but people need to be educated. They just don't understand that this is a needed medicine and that's all it is,' he said. 'It might be a social problem, but that's not our concern.'

McKeon said he would personally contact Secretary of State Jesse White to inquire about Rosenfeld's treatment.

'That two cops took it upon themselves to detain this person is a clear example of why we need this legislation,' said McKeon, who is a former Los Angeles police officer.

McKeon, who has AIDS, said he will continue to fight for medical marijuana laws in Illinois. He said Walters' presence points out clearly the 'stupidity, insanity and political ideology' that is driving the issue.

'I'm a lowly state rep from a Midwestern state called Illinois and to see this entourage sent directly by President George Bush, ... well, I'm honored,' he said.

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