Pubdate: Tue, 20 Aug 2013
Source: New York Daily News (NY)
Copyright: 2013 Daily News, L.P.
Author: Irvin Rosenfeld
Note: Rosenfeld is the author of "My Medicine: How I Convinced the 
U.S. Government to Provide My Marijuana and Helped Launch a National Movement."


As New York State considers legalizing medical marijuana, opponents 
have called it a scam, asking, If it's a medicine, why doesn't the 
federal government treat it like one? Well, I am here to tell you: It 
does. I know. The feds send me marijuana every month, and have for 
more than 30 years.

I spent my youth like millions of other American boys, until I turned 
10. I was playing shortstop and made the throw to first to end the 
game and seal our one-run victory. I was going to celebrate by 
tossing my glove in the air. Only, I couldn't: My entire arm was paralyzed.

After seeing an orthopedic specialist, I was told I had multiple 
congenital cartilaginous exostoses, a rare, hereditary bone disease 
that limits growth and mobility. I also suffer from the elaborately 
named disease pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism, which means I have low 
calcium and high phosphate levels.

Doctors told me I had bone tumors throughout my body, and chronic 
pain became something I simply lived with.

I was taking the most powerful prescription drugs on the market to 
relax my muscles and help me sleep, but the side effects were 
serious. I had many dangerous operations to remove bone tumors before 
they became malignant.

When I first enrolled at Miami-Dade Community College in the early 
1970s, a roommate of mine lit up a joint. I kicked her out after she 
refused to put it out.

At the time my medicine cabinet was filled with heavy narcotics - 
Dilaudid, Quaaludes and Valium - but I was not going to have pot in 
my apartment.

But pot was unavoidable, and to make friends, I eventually tried it. 
The first nine times I didn't even feel a high, and I rarely do to 
this day. Many patients don't get high.

But, the pot did have a profound effect on me. The 10th time I 
smoked, it occurred to me I had been seated for half an hour. For 
most, that would qualify as a lazy afternoon; for me, it was 
remarkable. I hadn't sat for 30 minutes straight in almost five 
years. The pot had eased my pain and muscle tension. I did some 
research and found that prior to 1937, almost every American 
pharmaceutical company manufactured cannabisbased drugs. I also found 
out the federal government had its own marijuana farm.

Starting in the late 1960s, the University of Mississippi operated a 
federally approved and legal marijuana farm and production facility. 
The National Institute on Drug Abuse contracts with the university's 
lab to grow, harvest, process and ship marijuana to licensed 
facilities across the country for research purposes.

Armed with these two nuggets of information, I decided to experiment. 
For three weeks at a time, I'd smoke marijuana every day, and feel 
less pain and more alert. I cut back on Dilaudid and other meds. When 
I stopped smoking the pot, the pain would return and my prescription 
med intake would go back up. I knew I needed this medicine, even 
though the federal government said it had no medicinal value.

In 1972, I began challenging the federal government. I wrote my own 
scientific study and submitted it to the Food and Drug 
Administration. The agency stonewalled me until 1978, when I met 
Robert Randall, the first federal medical-marijuana patient, and we 
turned my study into a Compassionate Care Investigational New Drug 
Protocol, which was what he was on.

But the FDA told my doctor that it was still looking into other alternatives.

We pressed our case and finally received a hearing with the FDA in 
October 1982. I had 15 minutes to convince a board that marijuana 
dramatically improved the quality of my life. I received my first tin 
of medical marijuana about a month and a half later: 300 rolled 
marijuana cigarettes, courtesy of Uncle Sam.

The feds started to call the program the Compassionate 
Investigational New Drug Program. In the late '80s and early '90s it 
expanded to include some HIV patients. Despite its success, the 
program was closed in 1992. The 13 of us then on the program were 
grandfathered in, so that we wouldn't sue the government.

Today, there are only four of us still alive, who continue to receive 
our medical marijuana from the feds - living, breathing symbols of 
our government's medical marijuana hypocrisy. By sending me my 
medicine every month, it acknowledges cannabis works as medicine - 
which is why it is inexplicable to me that pot continues to be 
classified as a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law.

The federal government says pot has no medical use, but it's doing so 
with one hand behind its back and its fingers crossed.

State lawmakers need to know that marijuana is indeed a gateway drug 
- - away from pain and suffering and toward a better life.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom