Irvin Rosenfeld has smoked more pot than almost anyone on the planet, ever. He holds the world’s record for the number of joints smoked: more than 115,000 as of 2009. Add in the five years since, and that amounts to 10 joints a day for the last 32 years. Now that’s living.
Rosenfeld, 61, has become something of a minor celebrity in recent years as his daily medical marijuana use put him in a category by himself. And he’s a reminder that the war on drugs hasn’t always been what it is today.
Back in the 1970s, a glaucoma patient named Bob Randall went on trial in federal court for possession of marijuana plants at his home. In a surprise ruling, the judge upheld Randall’s necessity defense and supported the use of medical marijuana.
Because Randall had already been tried, the government couldn’t appeal the case, so it never reached the federal appellate courts. If it had, it might have set a groundbreaking precedent and legalized medicinal cannabis.
Instead, the courts, the DEA, Congress, and most of the rest of the federal government simply ignored the ruling. But not everyone. Randall’s case led the government to create a new program for people who need medical marijuana. He was the first patient allowed to smoke weed legally in the United States.
He was soon joined by others in the program, including Rosenfeld. They got their weed straight from the feds, by mail, every month. It’s grown on a federal farm in Mississippi, which also produces research cannabis.
These patients got their weed via the Compassionate Investigational New Drug program, the first legal medical marijuana system in the United States. It’s hardly the best pot out there, but it’s free. Every last gram of it. Rosenfeld continues to receive 300 joints every month, delivered in a tin canister.
The program was shuttered in the early 1990s when the first President Bush realized it might provide pot to AIDS patients. But the 13 people in the program at the time were allowed to stay – and continue getting cannabis from the feds.
These days, Rosenfeld’s unique position – he’s one of just two remaining participants – puts him in the public spotlight. He has been arguing for MMJ for more than three decades, and for once, people are listening.
“People are finally realizing it’s not the evil weed it’s been made out to be,” he said. “Used correctly, it can be a miraculous drug.”
Rosenfeld said he carries his identification, prescription, and federal protocol papers everywhere he goes. He has had run-ins with the police, and he even keeps copies of newspaper articles to prove he is who he says he is.
He uses weed to treat the pain, inflammation, and muscle spasms associated with bone tumors he has had since childhood. Other members of the federal program used it for eye problems, cancer, and other conditions.
Time has finally caught up to Rosenfeld, as state after state legalizes MMJ and as legal recreational weed inches across the country. But that doesn’t mean everyone appreciates the legal limits of the program. Rosenfeld said he isn’t allowed to pass around joints, much as people ask him.
“I’m very disliked in my office because I won’t share,” he said.