What image pops up in your head when you picture a guy in his 60s who smokes eight to 10 joints a day? Someone in a ragged t shirt with dreadlocks? Are they lazy and unmotivated? Would you suspect that this person has a job? In your mind, would they be a “typical stoner”? Well, Irvin Rosenfeld is about as far away from those descriptors as you can get – except for his cannabis consumption. Rosenfeld grew up in a loving family in Portsmouth, Virginia. He was an active kid and, at a young age, it looked like baseball was his sport. At age 10, without warning, his arm became weak and feeble. In a few weeks, Rosenfeld went from smoothly throwing a baseball to having unexplained pain and temporary paralysis. Eventually, Rosenfeld was diagnosed with a rare and painful bone tumor condition called Multiple Congenital Cartilaginous Exostosis. From adolescence to young adulthood, Rosenfeld endured the pain with help of various pharmaceutical cocktails. Still, he excelled at school and was admitted to college in Florida. Pressured by peers in college, Rosenfeld tried a few puffs from a joint. He thought nothing of it until he began playing chess and was able to sit comfortably for 20 minutes – this had not happened in years! Rosenfeld reviewed his day and nutritional intake; the only difference was the cannabis. He tried it again and received positive results. From then on, if the underground market was able to supply cannabis, he was able to get relief. In the mid-1970s, as Rosenfeld was just getting out of college, a glimmer of hope for many medical cannabis patients arrived in the form of Robert Randall, an attorney living in Washington, D.C., who had severe glaucoma, which responds well to cannabis by relieving eye pressure. Engaging in an epic legal fight and gathering resources from other medical cannabis patients, Randall sued the federal government to get marijuana medicine under the Compassionate Care Act. This victory allowed a few others with qualifying conditions to get cannabis from the U.S. government, including Rosenfeld. Rosenfeld put up his own legal fight, aided by the University of Virginia and Georgetown University. He testified in Rockville, Maryland, in front of representatives from the Food and Drug Administration in 1982. His life was changed when he was granted permission to use cannabis. Today, he is only one of two people who receive cannabis from the federal government. Every 30 days, Rosenfeld picks up 300 joints from his local pharmacy, rolled and ready. They are shipped from the University of Mississippi, the only federally sanctioned cannabis growing operation. The potency of the joints is modest (around 5-7 percent THC) but they provide Rosenfeld with relief and keep his tumors from growing. Because of his unique physiology, Rosenfeld never gets stoned and says he’s never been high in 40 years! He’s a successful stockbroker as well. So if your image of a chronic cannabis smoker is a professional, red-haired, kind, smart stockbroker who sails on the weekends with a nonprofit group, then you are correct – that’s Irv Rosenfeld today.
Rob Mejia is president of Our Community Harvest: A Cannabis Education Company; he tweets at @OurComHarvest. Rob lives in New Jersey and spends his free time cooking, playing tennis, and repairing an old house.