FORT MYERS, Fla. - It's your money and you won't believe what we've uncovered, you're paying for pot.
The federal government tells us marijuana is a dangerous drug that has no medical benefits. But the federal government also spends a lot of your money every year growing and distributing pot.
As casually as someone grabs a cigarette, Irv Rosenfeld is smoking a joint in front of his Fort Lauderdale office building. He has a message for all of you.
"I want to thank each and every one of you for paying for my medicine for the last 30 years," Rosenfeld said, "without it I wouldn't be alive today."
Let's start at the beginning. 60-year-old Rosenfeld suffers from painful and rare bone tumors.
"I was diagnosed with this at age 10, I was told I might not live through my teenage years, I had numerous operations," said Rosenfeld.
The pain was so severe, he tells us he couldn't sit still for more than 10 minutes. That is until one day in college, when he did what many kids do, he smoked pot for the first time.
"For 30 minutes I sat, and that was the first time in five years I was able to sit for more than 10 minutes," Rosenfeld said.
Convinced marijuana was the only medicine that worked for him, Rosenfeld took on the federal government. In 1982, he was accepted into a short-lived investigational program studying the medical benefits of pot. At its peak, there were 13 people receiving medical cannabis from the government.
Though it was shut down in 1992 by President George H. W. Bush, Rosenfeld and three other surviving members were grandfathered in.
"Today there are only four of us left in the country that are legally allowed to possess marijuana anywhere in the country," Rosenfeld said, "federal government provides it, paid by our taxpayers money."
This year the Obama administration requested $25.6 billion for the war on drugs. Which in the past, has included shutting down medical marijuana dispensaries in states where they are legal. The government also spends millions of dollars each year on ads telling kids not to smoke marijuana.
Yet at the same time, your federal tax dollars are also being spent growing pot and rolling joints. How can pot for four people cost more than $400,000? Remember this is a federal government operation.
The cannabis is grown at the University of Mississippi in Oxford. It's then shipped to the Research Triangle Institute in North Carolina where it's rolled into marijuana cigarettes and freeze dried. Then it is delivered to the patients. Every 25 days, Rosenfeld picks up a tin of 300 joints.
"I get no euphoric effect, I don't get high from it, I never have," said Rosenfeld, "It just affords me the right to be as well as I can with a severe bone disorder."
Not surprisingly, the government doesn't exactly publicize this program. But in 1998, the National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse said growing, producing and shipping the joints costs $420,000 in growing years and $300,000 in non-growing years. The weed is grown every other year.
The council recommended the government consider conducting further research on the medical benefits of marijuana. But to this day, the Drug Enforcement Administration lists marijuana as a Schedule One Narcotic with no medical benefits.
"What gets me is when they say 'we don't have studies, we don't know how well it works without long-term studies,'" Rosenfeld said, "well gee they've been giving it to me for 30 years!"