Boca man credits medical marijuana for his health

November 20, 2006

Eliot Kleinberg, Palm Beach Post

On Monday, Irvin Rosenfeld started his 25th year of smoking nearly a dozen joints a day. Getting busted is the least of his problems. His more than 200 bone tumors were supposed to continue to grow until they left him paralyzed or caused a clot to break loose and kill him. Without his'medicine,' which he's received since 1982, 'I definitely believe that would have happened by now,' the stockbroker with offices in West Palm Beach, Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale said Monday. He is the longest surviving member of a group of 13 people ó eight have since died ó who, as early as the mid-1970s, began receiving marijuana from the federal government. They were given it for ailments ranging from glaucoma to multiple sclerosis to AIDS to the combination of maladies that has affected Rosenfeld, and no one else nationwide, since he was 10. He's the only one of the 13 able to lead an active life. And the tumors have not grown in 32 years. 'I feel fantastic,' Rosenfeld said. A longtime national proponent of controlled medical use of cannabis, Rosenfeld is now writing a book, a combination of autobiography and advocacy. He hopes to have it out by the spring. 'No one asked for a devastating disease so they could use marijuana,' Rosenfeld said. In response to telephone inquiries, the Food and Drug Administration on Monday forwarded an April 2006 press release in which it concluded that 'no sound scientific studies supported medical use' and that FDA-approved alternatives exist. According to the advocacy group Patients Out of Time ó Rosenfeld sits on its board ó 11 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medicinal use, and some three dozen states have allowed limited use, but the Drug Enforcement Administration has remained opposed. In 1982 and 1999, the group says, the Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academy of Sciences, found marijuana to be 'moderately well suited for particular conditions.' As a young adult, Rosenfeld bought pot wherever he could. Now the U.S. government grows marijuana on a farm in Mississippi and provides it in cans of 300 cigarettes. Rosenfeld has often said an effective cannabis pill would prevent a lot of hassles, and companies have created marijuana extracts and synthetic components of the drug, but none has been approved for use in the United States. Rosenfeld's book will detail his numerous difficulties. He was arrested while smoking on an Orlando balcony. He was detained while smoking at Walt Disney World. A policeman once pulled a gun on him. He was barred from a Delta flight; the federal government later ruled Delta was wrong but declined to penalize the airline. He was disqualified from a Chicago sailing regatta for the disabled because he was 'doping.' And as recently as June, he had to go without pot for four days when the Bahamian government wouldn't let him bring it to a weekend seminar. It was his longest stretch since a similar predicament in Canada in 1990. 'For the first 18 hours I did remarkably well,' Rosenfeld said. 'By the 36th hour I was hurting. I started popping pills; pain and muscle relaxant.'

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