Uncle Sam a drug pusher? It's true. For the past three decades, a handful of Americans have been getting regular deliveries of high-grade marijuana, courtesy of the federal government. It's all part of the Compassionate Investigational New Drug program, a little-known initiative that grew out of a 1976 court decision that created the nation's first legal pot smokers. Of the 14 people who were in the program initially, four are still alive. Keep clicking to meet the government-sanctioned marijuana mavens and learn more about the program - including where the government gets the pot in the first place...
This 1990 photo shows the first five patients in the program. Robert Randall (standing) was the very first patient and is known as the "father of medical marijuana." From left to right: Corinne Millet, Elvy Musikka, George McMahon, and Irvin Rosenfeld.
Credit: Alice O'Leary
Elvy Musikka, a 72-year-old woman from Eugene, Ore., receives marijuana to treat her glaucoma.
Musikka was pulled over by a cop while driving through Oregon last September. The state trooper did not believe the marijuana in her possession was legal, which led to an investigation that put a spotlight on the little-known government program.
Sixteen states currently allow medical marijuana. The government stopped accepting new patients to its program in 1992 due to a crackdown on crime and public health authorities concluding it had no scientific value. But Uncle Sam has since continued to supply marijuana to the four living patients "for compassionate reasons," according to Steven Gust of the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse. These patients have been relying on the drug to help with their health problems for decades.
Here's a label on a typical canister sent to patients in the program.
Irvin Rosenfeld, who entered the program in 1982, suffers from a rare bone disorder and uses marijuana to treat his pain. Rosenfeld is an outspoken public advocate of the government's medical marijuana program.
George McMahon has been receiving joints from the government since March 1990. McMahon suffers from a rare neurological disease known as Nail Patella Syndrome (NPS), characterized by abnormalities of the nails, knees, elbows, and pelvis.
Credit: McMahon Family Photo
George McMahon (left), Irvin Rosenfeld and Elvy Musikka, three of the four living patients, are pictured here at a 2006 conference for Patients Out of Time, a medical marijuana advocacy group.
Credit: Michael Aldrich
Where does the government's marijuana come from? Mississippi, by way of a lab in North Carolina, where the weed is rolled into cigarettes. And then the steel tins are sent to Florida and Iowa. Packed inside each can is a half-pound of marijuana rolled into 300 perfectly-wrapped joints.