We Talked to the Guy Who Is the Biggest Pothead in the World, According to the Federal Government
Irvin Rosenfeld has smoked over 200 pounds of government-gifted weed, and he says it doesn't get him high.
Photo courtesy of Irvin Rosenfeld
Irvin Rosenfeld says he has smoked more weed than anyone else in the world. Hard to prove, sure, but he has a pretty credible claim. In 1982 Rosenfeld was enrolled in the US government's Compassionate Investigational New Drug Program. The program stopped accepting new entrants in 1992, and today he is one of just four surviving members, and still receives ten free joints every day from the federal government. When you add it all up over the last three decades, that comes out to 120,450 joints. Stacked end-to-end, that's over five miles of doobies. If anyone says they've smoked more than that, they don't have Rosenfeld's paper trail to back it up.
Rosenfeld is a patient suffering from a debilitating genetic condition called multiple exostoses that causes painful tumors in his bones. Weed allows him to do things like sit down for long periods of time without pain. But he says it's only gotten him high once.
We had to know more, so we got a hold of him for a brief chat. He was audibly smoking the entire time, but he never lost his concentration.
Related: Watch our documentary about another old-school weed activist, Marc Emery.
VICE: So I hear NORML certified you as the person who has smoked the most joints.
Irvin Rosenfeld: Not exactly. NORML gave me a plaque called the Peter McWilliams Memorial Award for Outstanding Achievement in Advancing the Cause of Medical Marijuana.
But they're the authority, right? Guinness doesn't keep weed records, does it?The people at Guinness said the only way they sanction records is if they think people might be able to beat them. The other people in the program started after me. The odds of anyone being able to beat me are slim to none, so they wouldn't be able to sanction that.
Touché. So how much have you smoked if you add it all up?
I issue a press release every year, but I haven't totaled it up recently. Last time it was around 218 pounds. I also smoked for eleven years before the program, which can't technically be proven, like every other marijuana smoker.
I've read it's strictly medical in your case.
It doesn't get me high. When I was younger I used to smoke it to be accepted, but it didn't do anything. I took a lot of medications for pain, like dilaudid. The amounts I was taking were addictive doses of some of these medicines, but I never got addicted to those.
But I thought marijuana was garbage. The first ten times I did it, I was never high. Then one day after smoking I was playing chess, and I noticed I was still sitting after a half hour. I couldn't normally sit that long because of the pain. I hadn't sat for that long in five years, and I also hadn't taken a pill in six hours. I thought that garbage must have done something. I realized it had medical value.
What about the other effects of smoking marijuana? Even if it doesn't get you high, does it make you hungry?
I don't get the munchies. And I've never found that it gave me red eyes. And it's never made me cough. Sometimes I do enjoy the flavor.
Do you want to get high?
I got high once. I was attending a conference in Toronto, and when I got on the plane I wasn't allowed to bring any of my medicine. So when I got to the conference, they said they were gonna get me high, and I said "That never happens." They took me to a vape room, and I tried very high potency cannabis, and that didn't get me high. So then, they provided me with something called "budder," which has a 95 percent THC concentration. They told me "when you inhale it, it's going to feel like it's expanding in your lungs, and it'll be uncomfortable at first," and then it was supposed to get me high for two hours.
So I inhaled it, and I felt what they were talking about in my lungs. If they hadn't told me in advance, I would have thought something was wrong. There wasn't any effect at first, and they could see that. Then it was like flipping on a light. They looked at my eyes and they said "You're high," and I was. It was like floating onto a bed of clouds. I went from nothing to wasted. I couldn't do anything. Normally I do everything on marijuana, at that moment I couldn't have done anything.
Did you like it?
I liked it, I have to say. My body just felt good. It's something I never say "my body felt good," but that's what it was. And I thought I was going to stay like that for two hours.
Then after eight minutes, it was like flipping off a light. I felt it, and they could see it: I just wasn't high anymore. It was supposed to be two hours, but I only felt it for eight minutes.
And how'd you feel when it was over?
I was very disappointed. I had plenty of time. I could have been high much longer.
And do you smoke everywhere?
The other patients don't work. I did. The agreement I made with the DEA is that I can smoke anywhere where cigarette smoking is allowed. At work, business meetings, hospitals, or anywhere where smoking's not allowed, I vaporize oil, which is made by my girlfriend. She extracts it using a process that involves a rice cooker. I've never done it though.
Do you like using the vaporizer?
I smoke joints whenever possible. I find that gives me the best balance of THC and cannabinoids. I don't know if all the cannabinoids become vapor. For me, smoking is better. Other people with other conditions feel differently.
What about your car? Do you smoke and drive?
I smoke before, during, and after driving. And sometimes I get funny looks when people see me smoking one of my cigarettes behind the wheel. Police sometimes stop me and say "What's that I smell?" And I say "Well sir, that's cannabis sativa." And they'll say "Well it smells like marijuana." So I show them my prescription, and tell them about the federal program, and they usually haven't heard of it—sometimes they have—and then I'll have to say, "Well if you have access to Google, look me up. Or call your precinct and tell them to go to Google and put in my name."
After they realize it's legal, they say I can't drive with it. So I have to show them my protocol. It says I can't drive if I'm intoxicated. But I ask them if I seem intoxicated, and they say no.
You can read Irvin's story in his book, My Medicine: How I Convinced the US Government to Provide My Marijuana and Helped Launch a National Movement.
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