DURHAM — With California and Arizona voting earlier this month to allow the legal medical use of marijuana, there is a spotlight on the practice, but it's nothing new. In fact, marijuana cigarettes have been manufactured at the Research Triangle Institute (pictured at right) in Research Triangle Park for ten years.
Those who receive the legal joints, eight people in the United States, all have serious illnesses. Their symptoms, they say, are lessened by the drugs effects. They are able to use the otherwise illegal substance because of the Federal government's "Compassionate Use" program. Irvin Rosenfeld, 44, receives a tin containing 300 rolled cigarettes each month at taxpayers' expense.
The Federal marijuana program began in the 1970's and was discontinued in 1992. Rosenfeld and the seven other Americans who still receive the drug are exceptions.
The marijuana is grown at the University of Mississippi, flown to RTI where it's rolled, packed into tins and stored. From there, it is dispatched to the eight people across the country on a monthly basis.
Rosenfeld has been in the program for 14 years and says the marijuana enables him to make it through each day.
"Compassionate Use" is administered by the Food and Drug Administration, but must be overseen by the Drug Enforcement Agency and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The overall operation costs taxpayers $200,00 a year