Cannabis and Culture | SF Bay Guardian

  • No categories


The patient that time forgot


HERBWISE I contact a lot of stoners throughout the course of writing Herbwise — activists, businessmen, artists — but none has had a more crisp-sounding receptionist answer the phone than Ft. Lauderdale stockbroker Irvin Rosenfeld, who is one of four citizens of the United States legally allowed to smoke marijuana by the federal government.

No really, he is.

In 1982, Rosenfeld hit upon a winning combination of perseverance, legal precedent, and audacity when he succeeded in suing the US government to prescribe him cannabis for his painful, bone growth-causing condition. After filing a civil suit that claimed weed was the only palliative that helped his intense physical discomfort, Rosenfeld became part of the FDA’s short-lived Investigational New Drug Program. Calling Rosenfeld, original patient Robert Randall, and the subsequent 11 others who qualified for the program participants in a clinical study was the only way the feds could justify supplying the weed.

In 1992, the program was terminated. But the 13 patients — only four survive today — continued to receive tins of pre-rolled joints, the cannabis for which is grown (shoddily) at a government-run farm near the University of Mississippi. Rosenfeld tells me the weed he smokes is “12 years old,” and so dry that he’s compelled to unroll the cigarettes, store with fresh lettuce for six to eight hours to rehydrate the bud, then re-roll before smoking.

He tokes nine ounces a months and, he says, never gets high. He tells all his clients about his prescription because, as he puts it “I don’t want them seeing, for example, this article and thinking ‘oh, he lost us that money because he was high off that marriage-ja-wanna.'”

I ask him if he’s surprised, 20 years since he won his legal battle, that patients like himself are still battling for access to the plant. He reels off a series of crucial court hearings that, to his disbelief, swung time and time again in the direction of continued Schedule I status for cannabis. Rosenfeld says has made it able for him to leave the house on a regular basis.

“As a stockbroker I look at it economically. I think about, if I didn’t have my medicine, where would I be today? I’d be homebound. Is it just me? Or maybe there’s other people sitting at home that could be productive members of society. It irritates me.”

Our conversation is over, but there’s time left for two plugs from Rosenfeld. One for his book, My Medicine: How I Convinced My Government to Provide My Marijuana and Helped Launch a National Movement ( Buy it?

The second is for himself. Anyone need a stockbroker with experience in battling the US government?

“The expertise I used to take on the federal government is the same expertise I use in my business,” Rosenfeld assures me before we hang up. “If you want that expertise, you should hire me as your broker. If you don’t, then have a good life.”

Wicka wicka


HERBWISE I absolutely hated the hemp wick the first time I saw one on of my stoner friends’ lighters – and oh yes, at the moment this particular product will only show up in connection with your most stoner of friends. 

“What the hell is that?” They were sparking a joint with this awkwardly long waxed hemp string that they’d wrapped around the torso of their lighter. 

I was an idiot. I apologize, hemp wicks. Now I know you only have my best interests at heart. 

You’ll have to excuse my insta-hate. There are a lot of superfluous weed products out there (I’ve bitched about it before). Generally, I think the system we have going – plant, smoking device, flame, occasionally ingesting bud-inflected edibles – has served fairly well up until this point and anyone who messes with it runs the risk of a gimmicky high. See: the cannabis aphrodisiac shot. Case in point. 

But – as my red-eyed friend mellowly explained – the hemp wick is a different sort of animal. It’s not adding superfluity to one’s toke, it’s taking it away. Namely, it’s taking artificial gases out of your smoking experience. If you’re lighting your spliff, blunt, pipe, bowl, bong with a lighter, you’re channeling butane right at your point of inhalation. That’s a bummer not just because you’re adding chemicals to your high, but also because butane messes with your ability to taste whatever strain you’re smoking. Believe me, your Banana Kush sloughs its peel when it doesn’t have to combat that stream of gas you’re bathing it in with the lighter. Not to mention, with a steady flame you can spot control where your heat winds up, all the better for working that bowl. 

And so: the wick. Though HempWick claims to be the originators of the commercially-produced organic spool, Humboldt Hemp Wicks is experiencing a certain vogue as the choice strand in the Bay Area. The company has been selling wick for four years through the Internet, and its website proudly proclaims that it has every shop in Arcata and Eureka hawking its wares. You can get 10 feet for under two bucks, 200 feet for about $17. 

Not that hemp wick doesn’t come without certain professional hazards. Managing an – albeit waxed – thread with flame on the end does require a certain amount of grace. Does your focus intensify or wane when stoned? Beware the flailing wick. (And distinct possibility that, with the purchase of this product, you will graduate to the next echelon of stoner identity. This can either impress or upset those around you.)

But if my stoniest of baloney friends can wield the wick, I’m confident that my fearless readers will be able to. Just what you needed, right? Another reason to smoke.