THC edibles saved a North Dakota pharmacist's life. Now he's selling them in Minnesota
After losing a child, Pharmacist Steve Rosenfeldt fell into a spiral of PTSD and addiction which conventional medications couldn't help. His only relief? Cannabis. Now he sells THC edibles to others.
MOORHEAD — By day, Steve Rosenfeldt works as a North Dakota-licensed relief pharmacist, stepping in to fill prescriptions and counsel customers when other pharmacists are sick, vacationing or on leave.
But when he's not helping out at North Dakota pharmacies, Rosenfeldt crosses the river to run his own Moorhead business, Ediblez OTC, where he sells THC-infused candies, seltzers, tinctures and salves.
In doing so, he drives a few short miles from North Dakota — where over-the-counter THC edibles aren’t allowed — to Minnesota, which moved in July to legalize the sale of food and beverages containing small amounts of hemp-derived THC.
Under the law, Minnesotans can buy food and beverages that contain up to 5 milligrams of THC per serving, with a limit of 50 milligrams per package. THC is the psychoactive compound that delivers the high associated with marijuana.
But to Rosenfeldt, the decision to sell THC products wasn't so much fueled by cashing in on a trend as it was by the benefits he experienced first-hand with medical marijuana.
After a family tragedy in 2017, Rosenfeldt fell into a spiral of PTSD, chronic insomnia and addiction which no conventional psychotropic medications could help.
Relief came only after his physician agreed to prescribe medical marijuana to the married father of three.
“I think THC saved my life,” says Rosenfeldt, standing behind the counter at his modest shop, which still shows evidence of its past life as a beauty salon. His store is located at 2223 US-10, in the building that once housed Duane's House of Pizza.
Today, customers who wander into Ediblez OTC may not realize the laid-back, flannel-clad guy behind the counter is actually a licensed pharmacist.
But they may notice he’s pretty knowledgeable, as he advises them to take certain products with food to maximize the effect or explains the different delivery agents for different types of edibles.
A mustachioed man in his 40s listens intently to Rosenfeldt's suggestions before ordering a packet of blue raspberry gummies. "I'm glad they're finally getting legal," he tells Rosenfeldt.
The pharmacist says he hears this a lot. He's also heard many inspiring stories from customers who have used his products. Some people want help alleviating anxiety, chronic insomnia or joint pain. Others find cannabis takes the edge off when they're trying to wean off alcohol or suboxone, the drug which eases opiate withdrawals but can also be habit-forming. And others simply tell him they want the relaxed high provided by the substance.
Drawing on his old days of pharmaceutical study, Rosenfeldt diligently combs the latest medical research to learn more about cannabis and its potential benefits.
"I am for sure a THC expert. I’ve spent hundreds of hours reading journal articles, I know all about its metabolism, its distribution," he says. "There actually is an abundance of research on it. On PubMed, the national database for published journal, scholarly, peer-reviewed articles, has over 30,000 articles on cannabis."
Which might explain why so many people misunderstand cannabis, with its many different chemical compounds, properties and pros and cons. This is where Rosenfeldt can help. He can tell them that Delta-9 is the natural form of THC found in the plant and that different plant compounds provide different types of relief.
CBD contains little THC so has little psychoactive effect but is excellent for easing inflammation, anxiety and pain.
CBN is an oxidized form of THC and can be used in combination with THC for sleep. It can also help ease arthritis pain, symptoms from Crohn's disease or lack of appetite.
THC can help ease PTSD and related sleep disorders because it eliminates REM sleep, which is when nightmares happen, Rosenfeldt says.
THC can also help break up obsessive thinking patterns. "Some of those obsessive thinking disorders are so destructive and so hard to live with," he says. "It gives those people a little window of relief, right? A little vacation from their obsession."
Finds way back with medical marijuana
Rosenfeldt's own journey to explore THC was sparked by a parent's nightmare: the death of a child.
Rosenfeldt and his wife, Jade Rosenfeldt, now a Seventh District Court judge for Minnesota , were thrilled to welcome baby girl “Adeline” into their young family, which also includes two boys, Weston, now 12, and Henrik, now 8.
In November of 2017, three-month-old Adeline had been battling a cold but seemed to be on the mend when they dropped her off at her daycare, Jade says. So when they received a call from their childcare provider that she wasn’t breathing, they were in shock. Both rushed to the daycare to find paramedics working on their baby in the ambulance.
Through the next week, as the Rosenfeldts held a constant vigil at the hospital, Adeline remained in a coma. Doctors found three viruses — including an early version of the coronavirus — that may have contributed to her respiratory arrest. When it became apparent that Adeline would never regain consciousness, the couple made the difficult decision to remove her from life support. “My husband and I put her on our chests, and she passed away,” Jade said in an earlier interview.
The event was so devastating that Rosenfeldt developed post-traumatic stress disorder. He struggled to sleep and, when he finally nodded off, he had nightmares. When he awoke, his brain snapped into fight or flight mode. He fluctuated between deep depression and grinding anxiety. He couldn’t stop his brain from obsessively spinning and ruminating.
Doctors prescribed anti-anxiety drugs, sleep medications and antidepressants, but nothing helped. He started to self-medicate with alcohol. “If I drank enough, I could get to sleep. If I drank enough, I could not have dreams,” he says.
Rosenfeldt landed in treatment three times, the emergency room four times and the hospital twice.
After two years of this, he was ready to try anything. He had a relative who had dealt with trauma and substance abuse, but claimed the key to regaining sobriety and sanity was cannabis. So Rosenfeldt approached his doctor about getting a prescription for medical marijuana. His provider agreed.
It helped. His anxiety and obsessive thoughts began to ease. Most importantly, he could sleep. “I think the biggest thing was I was able to normalize sleep and sleep through the night without a nightmare,” he says. "I think when I was able to start getting rest, my brain was able to start healing.”
His recovery wasn’t seamless. After a relapse, he wound up back in treatment. This time, he realized his attempts to return to his job as a hospital pharmacist were too traumatizing; they reminded him of the hospital setting where they lost their daughter.
Despite the rough spots, Rosenfeldt still believes cannabis saved him. “I wish it had been at the very front end of my treatment,” he says. “I think the entire course of my life would have changed. I don’t think I would have been to treatment three times. I think I could have managed it all.”
After leaving his hospital pharmacy job, Rosenfeldt became a pharmacist with Acreage Holdings, the New York-based corporation that opened a medical marijuana dispensary in Fargo in 2019.
He made the leap to business ownership last fall when the draw of becoming an entrepreneur grew too great. He first opened shop in Moorhead’s Dollar Clinic, but relocated after learning the city’s newly passed regulation didn’t permit sharing a location with a medical provider.
He reopened at the Duane’s location in January and hopes to open another shop in Barnesville soon.
All of OTC’s products are from NuQanna, a Waseca, Minn., company which originally sold FDA-approved CBD products but switched to THC products when the state’s law changed. Rosenfeldt sits on NuQanna’s medical advisory board and is also a product representative.
He carries the company’s chocolates and gummies — which contain 5% THC per piece (Minnesota’s legal maximum) — as well as sparkling, THC-enriched fruit drinks like Jacked Seltzer.
The products range in price from $7 or less for individual beverages to the $25 price range for packs of gummies.
“It’s Minnesota-grown hemp that’s the source of the products,” he says.
Overcoming a 'century-long smear campaign'
Today, Rosenfeldt's hope is that people can start seriously considering THC as a viable alternative, especially in an environment in which so many widely prescribed medications — such as opioids and benzodiazepines — carry far greater risk for addiction.
"Pharmaceutical companies don’t want it legalized, alcohol companies don't want it legalized, and they both have a lot of money and a lot of influence and they spend it to keep it prohibited," he says. "There’s no comparison to the social costs and dangers of opioids. It’s a very dangerous and deadly road that people often end up on, unintended. They were getting treatment for an injury and it led to addiction and dependence."
But he also realizes it will be a tall order to destigmatize the long-vilified plant. “It’s been a century-long smear campaign," he says. He calls the country's long-time criminalization of the plant "cruel," as it has so many proven health benefits. "Honestly, I think the prohibition of cannabis is one of the cruelest things you can do to a population."
He also knows his stance will draw criticism. For instance, 12-step groups like Alcoholics Anonymous typically say someone who uses cannabis has only switched addictions.
Rosenfeldt's response is that groups like AA condemn marijuana yet look the other way as members use equally addictive substances such as nicotine and caffeine. "Your body has less of a dopamine response to THC than it does to caffeine," he says.
He acknowledges that cannabis is habit-forming to some but causes relatively mild withdrawals (similar to caffeine withdrawals). In contrast, rapid withdrawal from alcohol, opioids or benzodiazepines can be fatal.
Perhaps, most importantly, what does his family think?
Rosenfeldt says he has weaned off almost all of his medications, although he takes an occasional sleep aid when needed. He also takes a high dose of CBD daily to curb his anxiety. Beyond that, he says, he is completely transformed from how he was several years ago.
“I consider myself sober and my family considers me sober,” he says. “I am a completely functioning, participating member of my family — present in all aspects of family life.
"My wife has seen what a positive impact it's been on my life, and I think it has changed all of her opinions," he says. "Even at the beginning, I think she was a little skeptical, like, 'Are you just getting high?' But after the global changes in me and my behavior, I think that is kind of what won her over on the whole issue."
Learn more about Ediblez OTC at ediblezotc.com/