While many seniors are enjoying safe and legal access to medical cannabis for relief from a variety of age-related afflictions, some of our older friends or relatives may still harbor stereotypes from the “devil’s lettuce” propaganda of decades past. Several recent studies have shown that legal cannabis use is on the rise among Americans over 65. Peter Grinspoon, a renowned Medical Doctor and contributor to Harvard Health, described his experience guiding older patients through the decision to start using medical cannabis. He writes,
“these patients range from people in their 60s with kidney failure who can no longer take certain pain medications but still need to manage chronic pain, to patients in their 90s, who are looking for a good night’s sleep and are leery of the side effects of traditional sleep medications. Some of them — typically ‘children of the 60s’ — are quite comfortable with the idea of using medical marijuana; others bring it up quietly, as if they are asking permission to break the law.”Peter Grinspoon, MD
If you have a senior friend or relative who may benefit from medical cannabis, it can seem overwhelming to try to overcome false, negative stereotypes about cannabis. The drug war entailed several decades of well-funded propaganda films geared toward children and adolescents. The abundance of stereotyping, dramatization, and well-told lies is potent enough to permanently influence the opinions of many who grew up during this era. Fortunately, there are a few things to consider when trying to get your older friends or relatives to consider cannabis.
First, you’ll want to discover, address, and avoid your friend’s primary concern(s). Often, the psychoactivity of cannabis is daunting; many people have bad experiences with intoxicants, and simply don’t want to get stoned. Remind them that the psychoactivity of cannabis is entirely avoidable: topical salves, balms, and lotions can offer relief from pain without inducing any sort of mind-altering effect. Cannabinoids, like the psychoactive ingredient “THC,” can’t enter the bloodstream through the skin, it must be ingested. By sticking to topical-only cannabis products, you can be assured to avoid any type of psychoactivity.
CBD is another important cannabinoid to consider when trying to avoid psychoactivity. CBD doesn’t produce an intoxicating high like THC, even when consumed orally or inhaled. Many people report CBD having pain-relieving, relaxing, or clarifying properties. Primarily medical patients and elderly users opt for CBD, making it a popular choice for an older, apprehensive clientele.
Sometimes, the concern among older patients is lung health and smoking. Since cannabis is often smoked, many people have the association that smoking is an essential part of cannabis use- but it’s not! Cannabis products can be consumed as a food or drink, or as capsules or tinctures. The array of options available on the legal cannabis market helps to make cannabis consumption a more customizable process than ever before. No smoking necessary!
Second, it might be helpful to normalize the use of cannabis, especially with people your older friends or relatives can relate to. For example, Sue Taylor is a cannabis pioneer of the ‘Reefer Madness’ generation, who helps seniors find their way to “marijuana” as a medicine.
Sue was greatly influenced by the Reefer Madness era myths about cannabis, describing how she once believed cannabis to be as bad as heroin. Only after her son went to Oaksterdam College in Oakland, California to learn about the cannabis industry did she begin to change her perspective on it. Interestingly, Sue was originally against her son studying cannabis, until she went to Oakland and met pioneers of the medical cannabis industry firsthand. “I saw the healing, I saw what this amazing medicine can do first hand. It wasn’t something I read — it was something I witnessed” she describes.
Now, Sue is opening a one-of-a-kind medical cannabis dispensary in Berkeley, geared toward an older and more apprehensive audience. In a matter of a few years, Sue went from seeing cannabis as an evil, addictive drug worthy of eradication, to an essential medicine with the power to heal. She writes in Cannabis Now Magazine, “Seniors are the forgotten ones. There is such a lack of respect for seniors in this country and in this culture. I aim to bring that respect for our elders back. I believe in total well-being — body, mind, spirit and nutrition — and giving seniors back their wholeness because they are the wisdom keepers.”