It's one of the biggest secrets in cannabis: The federal government's medical-marijuana program that dates back to the '70s.
By 1991, 13 patients were receiving cannabis grown by the Feds at their University of Mississippi research facility. Now there is just one. The program stopped accepting applicants that year.
Elvy Musikka, who suffers from glaucoma, is no longer on the program after 32 years. Currently a resident of a legal cannabis state, Oregon, she has not consumed the low-potency governemt weed in several years.
Elvy petitioned to join the program in 1988 after she was arrested in Florida for cultivated plants in her backyard and was approved. She also won her court case, thanks to NORML attorney Norm Kent.
When she lived in Florida, Elvy had access to the cannabis. But once she moved to Oregon, NIDA refused to ship the tins containing 300 mass-produced joints there. Elvy would return to Florida once a year to collect her medicine. During the Covid-19 pandemic, that has not been possible. So she's officially dropped out of the program, which is technically known as the Compassionate IND (for Investigatrive New Drug) program. Just Irvin Rosenfeld, who has bone spurs and also lives in Florida, remains on it.
Elvy Musikka on government weed: "They sent us a bunch of garbage with no THC. It was hemp, which I love to wear, but it didn’t do anything for my glaucoma."
Elvy bitterly complained to me in 2016 about how bad the governemt weed was. In fact, she had to have a surgery because the cannabis was not helping her.
"The stuff they sent me three years ago blinded me," she explained. "They sent us a bunch of garbage with no THC. It was hemp, which I love to wear, but it didn’t do anything for my glaucoma. I thought I was having the potency I should have - and I wasn’t - so I didn’t worry about it. But within a month I knew I was in trouble. My doctor in Florida panicked and had me fly there for an emergency surgery. That surgery did me in. It detached my retina, took away my optic nerve and destroyed my sight. They sent me hemp, because they want everybody on low THC, and here’s what happened to me. It cost the taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars to take away some of my independence and blind me a little more than I already was. I blame this on the government for sending me that garbage and pretending it was medicine."
At 81, Elvy doesn't hold back; she never has. Born in Colombia to Spanish and Finnish parents in 1939, Elvy emigrated to New York with her family in 1953, the same year she had surgery for congenital cataracts that left her partially blind and led to her glaucoma condition. Her first surgery was in 1945 when she was six.
"I had four surgeries that were very successful for the standards of that time," Elvy recalled. "The problem was they didn’t take the whole cataract out; they took it out little by little. I don’t know why; that’s how they did it then. They didn’t insert a new lens like they do now. I had to wear very thick glasses. But I did get sight; it was up to 20/200 in both eyes. I was quite thrilled until the bad surgery in New York in 1953, which set my bad eye at 20/400.
"I went in for three days and ended up there for a month. That was my first encounter with hospitals in the U.S., and it was a flop. I had scar tissue very similar to what I have in the right eye now. Every surgery I’ve ever had left me with more problems and more scar tissue. When the right eye went completely after the 2012 laser surgery, I said I had enough. I couldn’t tell you if it was day or night in that eye. It was like there was no light. You close your eyes, somebody turns on the light, you open your eyes and you still know there’s light in the room. This was not like that. It was nothing. That sight was never really regained until I was on this program and was smoking marijuana all the time."
Elvy folllowed the lead of Robert Randall, also a glaucoma sufferer and the first patient in the IND program in 1975 who'd discovered cannabis reduced his ocular pressure. One of the first condiions to be acknowledged that cannabis benefitted, along with cancer and HIV, now glaucoma is not even accepted as a condition in many state cannabis programs, including New York.
"That’s very upsetting to me," she said "We cannot continue this ignorance. It blinds us more than eyesight. There is nothing accepted more worldwide than marijuana. The day of ignorance is over."