by Dean Becker
by Steve Nolin
Guest: Irvin Rosenfeld
(Audio Track) Intro – My name is Dean Becker; Steve Nolin is our engineer. We invite you to join us as we examine the unvarnished truth about the drug war.
Dean: Good evening. Welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. Our guest for tonight will be Mr. Irvin Rosenfeld, the longest surviving Federal marijuana smoker in the United States. I want to thank all those who help us beat our enormous pledge goal last week; and I want to thank Diana and Philip, who is our engineer tonight. Steve is unable to join us. We’re going to do a little bit of news, and we’ll be bringing on Irv Rosenfeld here in just a moment; but first, let’s hear from Glenn Greenfield.
Glenn Greenway: “The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crimes said Thursday that Afghan opium cultivation has jumped 64% this year, and that drug exports now account for nearly two thirds of the Afghan economy. The U.N. report also says that U.S.- occupied Afghanistan currently produces 87% of the world’s opium, that 1 of 10 Afghanis is directly involved in the opium industry, and that cultivation has now spread to all 32 provinces. The day before the report was released, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency asked Congress for nearly $1 billion to fight the opium trade in Afghanistan – up almost 10-fold from current levels. The U.S. plan calls for eradicating 50,000 to 70,000 acres of poppy fields next year. In addition, chairman of the House International Relations Committee, Henry Hyde, called for the U.S. to expeditiously create counter-narcotics battalions to target Afghanistan’s opium industry. In Kabul, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has announced his opposition to proposed U.S. plans for aerial spraying to combat poppy farming. He has promised to send experts to examine complaints that the U.S. has already begun spraying in Nangarhar province. The Independent reports that in Jalalabad in the past 2 months, just talk of the eradication has pushed the price of opium up from $70 to $400 per kilo. Today’s Houston Chronicle reports that international officials fear that Afghanistan is on its way to becoming a “narco-state” like Columbia. However, PBS reports that narcotics trafficking accounts for a mere 3% of Columbia’s gross domestic product. The new U.N. report informs us that nearly two thirds of U.S.-occupied Afghanistan’s GDP comes from illegal drug exports. The U.N. also reports that in 2002, the average Afghani income was only $184 per year. If we take away two thirds of their economy, they will each be left with just $74 a year, or about 20 cents a day. This is Glenn Greenway reporting for the Drug Truth Network.”
Dean: And of course, I had the name wrong. It is Glenn Greenway, and I thank him for that report. Here’s a little bit more news. It seems I just don’t have time to keep up with it all. This is from the Guardian newspaper in the UK: “David Blunkett gets tougher on drugs. New police powers to prosecute offenders for possession.” If they test positive for drugs when they are arrested, even if the only drugs they have are in their blood stream. This from the New York Times: Federal drug regulators are “virtually incapable of protecting America” from unsafe drugs, a Federal drug safety reviewer told a congressional panel. From the Houston Chronicle: McAllen – “A senior U.S. customs inspector is accused of conspiring to allow truckloads of marijuana from Mexico to pass through his lane at an international bridge.” This is according to an indictment unsealed last week. And, of course, we should realize that single pounds of marijuana can sometimes be bought for less than $500 in Texas. One last story I wanted to touch on. This is another voice – cruel, irrational sentencing. This is from the Los Angeles Times: A 25-year-old Utah man sold 8-ounce bags of marijuana on three occasions to an undercover officer. He was sentenced to 55 years in prison because he had a pistol strapped to his ankle during the deals. That’s more time than he would have received if he had hijacked a plane, beaten someone to death in a fight, detonated a bomb in an aircraft, and provided weapons to support a foreign terrorist organization. The maximum sentence for all these crimes together is less than the mandatory minimum under Federal sentencing rules for a small-time dope dealer carrying a gun. A product of the drug war and Federal sentencing reforms, these stiff mandatory minimums were enacted 20 years ago to send a message about the severity of drug crimes and prevent a judge’s philosophy or a defendant’s background from influencing sentencing decisions. But what they really do is take discretion from judges and hand it to prosecutors who can dictate the length of a prison term by the roster of charges they choose to file. Okay, that’s it for the news; and I think we do have Mr. Irvin Rosenfeld on the line. Mr. Rosenfeld, can you hear me?
Rosenfeld: Good evening.
Dean: Good evening, sir. Glad you could join us. If you will, this is right near the anniversary, 22nd anniversary, of your entry into the IND program. Please tell folks what that is.
Rosenfeld: What that is – in 1982 I became the second patient in the United States to receive medical cannabis from the Federal government under what is called a “compassionate care” protocol. The Federal government at the time wasn’t agreeing that marijuana worked as a medicine. What they were saying was that a qualified physician had stated in a research project that no medicine worked that was available, and that he believed marijuana worked better and worked very well. And so there was a loophole in the law and we were able to lobby the Federal government and win. And at that point I became the second patient under the compassionate care IND – Investigation of New Drug. And the program was shut down by Bush Sr. – President Bush Sr. – in 1992, grandfathering 13 of us in.
Dean: And wasn’t there a situation that was developing that many of these people with AIDS who were in need of cannabis to help with their therapy, their medicines they were taking – kind of overwhelmed the system?
Rosenfeld: Right. Well, what happened was that normally it would take 8, 9, 10 months to write a protocol for it to be able to go to FDA, DEA, and NIDA, National Institute of Drug Abuse. Those three agencies have to approve it. And we had gotten 5 AIDS patients of these 13 patients and we had gotten the protocol for an AIDS patient, basically “fill in the blank.” So Robert Randall who was the first patient, God rest his soul, sent the protocols to all the AIDS organizations and they bombarded the Federal government with thousands of protocols. And the Bush administration, not wanting to deal with it, just shut the program down. And 13 of us were grandfathered in. An additional 28 patients had been approved by all three government agencies, but they never received any of their medical cannabis. And so therefore, when the program was shut down, they never received any and never have.
Dean: All right. Irv, if we might, let’s talk about you. We had a prior discussion. You told me you smoked 10 to 12 joints a day. That doesn’t impact your ability as a stockbroker?
Rosenfeld: Correct. No, I don’t get any euphoric effect from the cannabis. I never have. I’ve always thought that the reason I don’t is because I’m using the medicine differently and, therefore, I need it medically as a muscle relaxant, for anti-inflammatory, and for pain; because I have all these bone tumors that grow outwardly from the major bones into the muscles and veins. And so I need that type of medicine for these tumors. Some other philosophy could be that with the known cannabinoid receptors that people have in their brains, that possibly mine are defective. Therefore, I’m getting the medical benefit, but I’m not getting the euphoria.
Dean: Well, I saw a story that came out recently talking about the cannabinoids, as you mentioned – that the human brain naturally produces and processes compounds closely related to those found in cannabis sativa, otherwise known as marijuana. And that’s becoming, if you will, a hot button in science; that many institutes are looking at that situation and how that interaction with the brain works to thwart pain and to help those enduring various maladies.
Rosenfeld: Well, definitely, they are coming out with the same conclusions – that we have endorphins, which is like synthetic morphine, that we manufacture ourselves. That’s why these same people that run get what they consider “runner’s high.” Because the brain takes care of the pain and everything from the running, so it’s producing these endorphins in massive doses and the runners get a high from it.
Dean: Now the government has come out with a product they say is a perfect alternative to marijuana. They call it Marinol. Have you ever had any experience with it?
Rosenfeld: I tried Marinol once when I had to go to Canada for a business conference. They wouldn’t let me in with my cannabis, so I took Marinol. I tried it the week before, with no results at all. It did not work for me. I didn’t get any psychoactive results, nor did I get any medical aspects of it. Now, later on when I talked with one of the government scientists, he basically stated that I would probably have had to take – where the prescription was 30 tablets, he said I would probably have had to have taken at least a third each time for it to have been beneficial for me.
Dean: My gosh, that’s a lot of money, too, in those darn pills.
Rosenfeld: A whole lot of money in those pills – they are very, very expensive. So they are marginal at best. If they work for some people, thank God they do. However, the vast majority it really doesn’t work for; and again, it’s synthetic THC. It’s only one chemical in marijuana. And marijuana is made up of 450 to 500 different known chemicals and cannabinoids. Who knows how they all interact and how they work?
Dean: I have heard it said for some patients suffering from one malady or another, that a certain type, a certain strain, of marijuana works better for them. That certain properties – as you say, various properties in each type.
Rosenfeld: Exactly, and that’s why companies like GW Pharmaceuticals in England has been working on different extracts of cannabis to find out which works best for different diseases. And they are trying to make a sublingual spray out of it, and being approved that way.
Dean: Now, Irvin, I know that you are called upon to speak and you have been on television many times; and I want to reach back just a few months to a taping that was done on the Montel Williams show. There was a good group of people getting together to talk about medical marijuana, because Mr. Williams has multiple sclerosis and, as he said, uses it on a daily basis. I wanted to ask your thoughts. There are always moments that get cut out; and it seemed to me that Andrea Barthwell, who was there speaking on behalf of the government, was given some – I don’t know, if you will – just some free space. It just seemed that she did not fully answer many of the questions posed by Mr. Williams, and I was wondering if you could tell us what else we might not have seen on the air that you witnessed.
Rosenfeld: Well, Montel – the show took an hour and a half to tape and, as you know, it is only a less-than-an-hour show, not counting commercials. So they had to cut out a lot. And what was cut out were the pleas of Montel when he grabbed my canister and would shake it in front of somebody’s face or whatever and almost break down. That happened four times during the show. As far as Andrea Barthwell, she – I guess you could say – represented the government; although she now is not with the government anymore and wasn’t at that show. However, she gave the patented government responses. And she did not want to answer the fact that here I am – if the government, as she says, “Well, we need more research.” And then I would say, “Well, if you need more research, then why isn’t the government interested in me?” Here I have been under the government’s auspices for almost 22 years; been using it, documented it for 33 years. Wouldn’t you think if you wanted to research a patient, that I would be the perfect one to examine? And of course, she didn’t really have any answer; and that’s when I brought up the private study that was done by the University of Montana which showed that the four of us that they tested we were all normal. Everything was fine. So are we an anomaly? Are we the 80-year-old man who smokes two packs of cigarettes a day and goes, “I don’t know why you say cigarette smoking causes cancer.” Or are we just four normal people, and it turns out that marijuana isn’t the hysteria that the government makes it out to be.
Dean: Isn’t that the point? That if there were people suffering from using marijuana, if it were giving them cancer, if it were killing them, if it were harming them in any way, I think it would be front-page news.
Rosenfeld: Well, I definitely think it would be. And even if, God forbid, that were to happen – I know myself when I got on the government program, I had to sign a release that if I came down with lung cancer, I couldn’t sue the government. And I laughed. I said, “You know, I should live so long as to come down with lung cancer.” I mean, I have over 200 tumors in my body which have a 25% chance to become malignant. So, I should live so long as to get a new ailment. So the patient has that right. The government – some of the people against marijuana, especially some AIDS doctors, say that it could compromise the immune system. Well, let’s suppose they are right – which I don’t believe they are, but let’s suppose they are right. Well, that patient and that doctor, or whoever that AIDS patient’s doctor is, has the right to make that decision. Or if a patient thinks, “Well, you know I could live 5 years, but I’m not going to live very well.” Or, “I could live 3 years because my immune system has been compromised and I’m going to die 2 years sooner, but I’m going to have a pretty good 3 years.” Well, that patient has the right to make that decision.
Dean: You bet, you bet. I tell you what, Irvin, we’re going to take just a little break; 90 seconds, and we’ll be right back.
You know, my coverage of the Bush administration seems a little one-sided to some people, so I thought it only appropriate that I bring in a compassionate, conservative, Christian defender of the Republican Party, Miss Ann Coulter:
Coulter: “We don’t need long investigations of the forensic evidence to determine with scientific accuracy the person or persons who ordered this specific attack. We don’t need an international coalition. We don’t need a study on terrorism. The nation has been invaded by a fanatical, murderous cult. We should invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity. We weren’t punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. Because we bombed German cities, we killed civilians. That’s war, and this is war.”
Dean: “Criminals get so emboldened, rip you off, think you’re holding. Can’t tell the policeman what you know. Got no recourse to the law. Bad guys, drug taking, lead you. They are just looking for that easy score. They will rob, rape, and kill you. Cause we got no recourse to the law.”
It’s time to play “Name That Drug By Its Side Effects”: Tremors, drowsiness, dizziness, sweating, difficulty breathing, swelling of the face, low blood pressure, high blood pressure, blurred vision, chills or fever, sleepiness or insomnia, impotence or difficulty having orgasms. Time’s up. The answer: Lexapro, another FDA-approved product.
Dean: Okay, just a quick thought here. I put that in, “no recourse to the law,” to once again to exemplify the situation. It happened again just last week. A man was shot to death here in Houston during a home invasion. Four men came in at 3:30 am. They held a family at gunpoint, demanded drugs. After the intruders made the wife get on the floor, she heard gunfire and discovered her husband had been shot multiple times. A search turned up no usable quantities of drugs. Just another example of your drug war in action, folks. We do have with us tonight on Cultural Baggage Mr. Irvin Rosenfeld, one of six surviving medical marijuana patients supplied by the Federal government. Irvin, is that right? Is there still six of you guys now?
Rosenfeld: Well, the government says there’s seven.
Dean: There’s seven?
Rosenfeld: Right, there were eight; and then Robert Randall died 4 years ago.
Dean: Okay, and there are two that remain anonymous, is that right?
Rosenfeld: Yeah, the sad part about it is they began this hysteria or whatever. They must be in certain types of jobs that they can’t become public and state what they do.
Dean: Right, it has been my good fortune to meet you and George McMahon and Evie Musikka.
Dean: Elvy, I’m sorry. And you guys show that it doesn’t disjoint your life, it doesn’t make you fall apart, it just helps you get through.
Rosenfeld: Well, in my case, it helps me be able to get out of bed and work and hold down a job such as being a stockbroker, being a very positive member of society versus a drain on society.
Dean: Sure, I don’t know, Irvin, if you have had the opportunity to hear, but here in Texas they just released a study last week that showed 75% of Texans now support medical marijuana. This came from a Scripps survey that looked at 900 people and found out that across the state it is a majority – in any section of the state, Democrat, Republican, young or old.
Rosenfeld: Well, I think you will find that nationwide – that actually it’s almost 80% nationwide are in favor of medical cannabis. The problem is the politicians – they just don’t want to believe that if they come out in favor of it, they aren’t going to lose votes. That’s what they think is going to happen, so therefore, they don’t want to come out in favor of it. And that’s sad. I mean look at the state of Montana. Montana – Bush took that state by 56%. So you can say that that state is conservative. Well, they had a medical use of marijuana law on the ballot and it won by 62%. So more people voted for that in the state of Montana than voted for President Bush. What does that tell you?
Dean: It screams loudly, if you ask me. It says a whole bunch. I understand in Vermont, they had a situation where three Republicans who were for the drug war were not re-elected, and three Democrats who were for reform were brought into office.
Rosenfeld: I’m not really sure, exactly. I’ve heard that there were three that were defeated and three Democrats actually were re-elected. They weren’t new ones. Something on that order, but I’m not really sure on that.
Dean: Well, I forget the details. Don’t have it all with me, but you’re right. It still shows that the voters are not going to un-elect people if they are for changing these crazy drug laws.
Rosenfeld: No, in fact, just the opposite. I think if politicians were to realize the effect if they came out in favor of it – and again, it’s not coming out in favor of being soft on crime or something like that, it’s – my issue, of course, is medical use of cannabis. But again, in other issues as far as some sort of more sanity about people not being killed over certain things, that would be something logical you know. No more jails, no more this, no more that. We’re spending lots of money, wasting it. But again, my main issue of course, only issue, is medical use. And for a politician to come out in favor of compassion, to say we are tired of making our sick people suffer when there is something that might be beneficial, there is nothing wrong with that. And again, politicians can come out in the middle of the road. They could say, “You know something, we don’t know whether it works or not. We need more studies.” Well, the only way we are going to have more studies is to have more patients. Why don’t we reopen the compassionate care protocols to, say, 50 of our major research centers around the country; let them pick 50 patients apiece. For the next 2 years, let’s study 2500 patients; and let’s see what the results will be. That way, a politician saves face. He’s not coming out in favor of drugs. He’s saying we need to research it more. Well, the only way you are going to do it is to have patients.
Dean: Exactly right. Dr. Tom O’Connell was a guest a few weeks back and he mentioned the fact that despite the fact that there are millions of people who use drugs, the users are never studied. It’s only done in a pharmaceutical setting, not the history and the life of the people who have actually used them.
Rosenfeld: Well, the reason that could be is because, scientifically speaking, they want to know where you were before you started. So there is a baseline. You know, like I did studies when I first started to show the doctors it was beneficial through biofeedback studies. But there was no real baseline to say where my heart rate was, where this was and everything, before I was smoking marijuana, because that was before I was 18.
Dean: Okay, okay. Now John Walters, our drug czar, tours the country saying there is no legitimate medical association that is for medical marijuana. And that’s just not right, is it?
Rosenfeld: No, there are many, many, many organizations that have come out in favor of medical use of marijuana. Just the American Medical Students Association, the American Nurses Association, and many, many more.
Dean: That represents millions of doctors, if I’m not – clinicians and so forth.
Rosenfeld: It definitely does. And again Walters and other government officials – it would be nice if they would say, “Well, you know there is no medical benefit; there is no medical benefit at all,” and they would say that to me.
Rosenfeld: And they should say that it is detrimental, that it harms you, that is does this to your lungs or does this to your brain. They should say it to me. But they don’t. That’s the sad part about it.
Dean: Right, they can’t defend it publically, that’s for sure.
Rosenfeld: No, it’s just like when I did the Penn and Teller show that they did on the war on drugs on Showtime. I ended the show by saying here I was, I took a puff of my medicine in front of the White House. I exhaled, and I said here the government has been giving me this medicine for over 21 years and they don’t even want to know how well it works. And that’s the sad part about it.
Dean: It’s just amazing. And again, even here in Texas, though they say yes, we should probably allow doctors to talk about it, they want more studies. As if there haven’t been enough already.
Rosenfeld: You know it’s been a medicine that was used in this country from 1860 to 1937 in the form of a tincture. It was used for a myriad of disorders, and there was never a recorded death in the history of it. It’s been used in centuries of other cultures and no one has ever died from this. So it’s the hysteria of the social aspect of it. It’s the hysteria of the economic aspect of it, as far as the hemp industry. It’s also the legality of it. A lot of people don’t want to lose their jobs. And if marijuana or other drugs were legal or something like that, then there would not be as much crime and there wouldn’t be as much prisons and there would not be as much jobs in that respect. But economies can move on, and there would be new jobs created if things like that happen. But the thing I want to see, is I want to see medical cannabis available to physicians so they have the right to try to heal their patients.
Dean: Absolutely right. We’re winding down to about 2 minutes here. Irv, I want to ask you, if you would, do you have any favorite websites you think folks could learn from?
Rosenfeld: Patients Out of Time.
Rosenfeld: Yes, that’s what it is, I believe. Yes.
Dean: Right, I have visited many times. Irv, it is always a treat when I get to meet you, and I really appreciate you coming to visit with us tonight. Any closing thoughts you would like to leave?
Rosenfeld: Well, I think the work that you are doing is very good, and I think that the work of all of us out there who are in favor of medical marijuana is to keep fighting and keep working towards the common goal. And to try to explain to their congressmen how important this issue is and that backing this issue is only going to be a benefit. So we need to go out and just keep working hard and keep propping each other up.
Dean: You bet. That’s the only way to go. Think of it this way: 3 out of every 4 people you talk to will agree with you.
Rosenfeld: Exactly. Not many issues are that cut.
Dean: It’s just that everyone has to hide that theorem behind some veil.
Rosenfeld: Yep. Well, you have a nice evening.
Dean: Thank you, Irv, for being with us, and we’ll be talking with you soon.
Rosenfeld: All right. Stay well.
Dean: All right, thank you. A couple of closing notes. I wanted to let folks know that I do have a copy of the book written by Mr. Preston Peet, Under the Influence, The Disinformation Guide to Drugs. He was a guest some several weeks back. If you would like to get this big coffee-table book, send an email to me: Dean@drugtruth.net. Pick a number between 1 and 2005. Somebody out there on the network will get this. Be sure to include your name and address and write to Dean@drugtruth.net A number between 1 and 2005. I don’t necessarily have any editorial tonight. I’m going to let this next track say it for me:
She’s a carpool mom,
A Revlon blonde,
And she thinks that she is so real.
So then why does she conceal
the color of her hair
and wear fake fingernails?
And tell-tale rumors of a boob job, too.
So who is she trying to fool?
The other moms that drive the pool?
Or maybe just herself?
Because her mental health is what keeps her looking young.
And she just turned 41. Has 2 daughters and a son.
And a husband, his name’s Tom.
She’s a carpool mom.
Sports some “No Drug” bumper sticker on the bumper of her van.
She’s got Prozac in her purse and a cigarette in her hand,
Drinks black coffee every morning, gin & tonic after dark,
Keeps her Sleepeze in the night stand.
Loves her husband, he’s a narc.
She’s a carpool mom.
Chaperoned the 9th grade prom.
Wore a ribbon on her dress
that says that she protests
the use of drugs like crack and cannabis.
Because to her, they are both the same.
And she pops a pill into her brain.
Who let her in this game, anyway?
They’ve told her what to say.
And besides, her Valium keep her calm.
She’s a carpool mom.
With diet pills clenched in her palm
and with that tight-clinched fist insists drug users should be jailed,
denied bail, nailed to the cross.
That will show them who is boss.
Toss away the key, then maybe they will see that we mean business.
And she witnesses at her church.
Can recite every single verse of Chapter 23, Book of Psalms.
She’s a carpool mom,
a real human time bomb
in this war on drugs.
She serves icy mugs of beer and cheery wine coolers with fruity flavors.
Takes some pills her neighbor gave her, cures whatever ails you.
Hell, she doesn’t even know where they come from,
and she’s a carpool mom.
Any slight doldrum requires a quick pick-me-up;
A cup of caffeine in between drags of nicotine
give her hands something to do.
And she still hasn’t got a clue
that she is a drug user, too.
So my question is the same.
Who let her in this game anyway?
And don’t say shame on you and tell me to stay calm
when there are hypocrites out there
like the carpool mom.
Dean: All right, I hope you enjoyed that. That was from Mr. Paul Bullock. He’s out of Lubbock, Texas. He just kind of sent me that out of the blue, and I really did like it. Thank you, Paul. Kind of a PS here for Americans for Safe Access. They are the largest national grass roots coalition working solely to protect the rights of patients and doctors to use marijuana for medicinal purposes. If you want to learn more from them, you can visit their website, which is safeaccessnow.org. We have just a few more seconds left here. Philip, I just want to let y’all know that next week we will have as our guest – oh, I’m drawing a blank. Should have written it down. But anyway, we got to wrap it up, he tells me. As always, because of drug prohibition, you don’t know what is in that bag. Please, be careful.
For the Drug Truth Network, and on behalf of my technical producer, Steve Nolin, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage, the unvarnished truth. This show is produced at Pacifica Studios of KPFT, Houston. Tap dancing on the edge of an abyss.