Compassionate Cannabis

The Federal Compassionate Investigational New Drug Study program began after Robert Randall brought a lawsuit (Randall v. U.S)[2] against the Food and Drug Administration, theDrug Enforcement Administration, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Health, Education & Welfare. Randall, afflicted withglaucoma,[2] had successfully used the Common Law doctrine of necessity to argue against charges of marijuana cultivation because it was deemed a medical necessity (U.S. v. Randall).

On November 24, 1976, federal Judge James Washington ruled:

no adverse effects from the smoking of marijuana have been demonstrated… Medical evidence suggests that the medical prohibition is not well-founded.[3][4]

The criminal charges against Randall were dropped, and following a petition (May 1976) filed by Randall, federal agencies began providing him with FDA-approved access to government supplies of medical marijuana, becoming the first American to receive marijuana for the treatment of a medical disorder.

Randall went public with his victory and shortly after the government tried to prevent his legal access to marijuana. This led to the 1978 lawsuit where Randall was represented pro bono publico by law firm Steptoe & Johnson. Twenty-four hours after filing the suit, the federal agencies requested an out-of-court settlement which resulted in Randall gaining prescriptive access to marijuana through a federal pharmacy near his home.

Bush administration closed the program

The settlement in Randall v. U.S. became the legal basis for the FDA’s Compassionate IND program.[2] Initially only available to patients afflicted by marijuana-responsive disorders and orphan drugs, the concept was expanded to include HIV-positive patients in the mid-1980s.

Due to the growing number of AIDS patients throughout the late 1980s and the resulting numbers of patients who joined the Compassionate IND program, the George H. W. Bush administration closed the program down in 1992. At its peak, the program had thirty active patients.

Clinton A. Werner, author of “Medical Marijuana and the AIDS Crisis“, says that the closure of the government program during the height of the AIDS epidemic led directly to the formation of the medical cannabis movement in the United States, a movement which initially sought to provide cannabis for treating anorexia and wasting syndrome in AIDS patients.[5]

Remaining patients

The remaining patients in the Compassionate IND program were grandfathered in. As of 2012, there were only four surviving patients (two patients who entered the program anonymously are believed to have died). What follows is a table listing the last six patients who are not anonymous, and details of their cases.[6]

Name of Patient Diagnosis Date entered
IND Program
Marijuana dosage
Per Month*
Years in program
(through 7/19/12)
(as of 7/19/12)
Douglass, Barbara Multiple sclerosis August 30, 1991 9 ounces 20 Still enrolled
McMahon, George Nail-patella syndrome March 16, 1990 8 ounces 22 Still enrolled
Millet, Corrine Glaucoma November 16, 1990 4 ounces 17 Deceased (December 2007)
Musikka, Elvy Glaucoma October 17, 1988 8 ounces 23 Still enrolled
Randall, Robert Glaucoma November, 1976 24 Deceased (June 2, 2001)
Rosenfeld, Irvin Rare bone disorder November 20, 1982 9 ounces 29 Still enrolled

* One cured ounce can equate to about 40 joints (marijuana cigarettes).


  1. Jump up^ Goldman, Russell (November 24, 2009). “Man Sets Marijuana Record, Smokes 115,000 Joints Provided by Federal Government”ABC News. Retrieved December 3, 2013.
  2. Jump up to:a b c Ben Amar M (2006). “Cannabinoids in medicine: a review of their therapeutic potential” (PDF). Journal of Ethnopharmacology (Review) 105 (1–2): 1–25. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2006.02.001PMID 16540272.
  3. Jump up^ Lee, M. A. (2012). Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana – Medical, Recreational and Scientific. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 143912793X.
  4. Jump up^ The Criminal Law Reporter. 20. Bureau of National Affairs. Arlington, Va. 1976. p. 2300.
  5. Jump up^ Werner, Clinton A. (March 4, 2001). “Medical Marijuana and the AIDS Crisis“. J Cannabis Ther. (3/4): 17-33.
  6. Jump up^ “Who are the patients receiving medical marijuana through the federal government’s Compassionate IND program?”. July 19, 2012. Retrieved 19 November 2012.