Image courtesy Alex Harvey via Unsplash
Elderly people are smart.
Elderly people have bodies with lots of wear and tear. They ache, and they want relief.
And at their age, they could care less about the stigma the medical establishment perpetuates about medical cannabis.
“Honey, give grandma a hit of that!”
You know you’ve heard it.
Now, let’s talk about it. Seriously.
Dispensary patients no different from who you see at Walgreens
When people ask me about the medical marijuana dispensary where I am registered, which is all the time, I always have the soundbite ready.
“It’s mostly elderly women when I go in the mornings,” I tell them.
In fact, it could be the same people you see in line at Walgreens. Naturally, that always is dominated by elderly people picking up their medications.
So, it’s only natural that elderly people are a big part of the clientele at medical cannabis dispensaries.
Although there are many chronic conditions that might qualify an elderly person for a medical cannabis card in their state, most use it to seek relief from arthritis and inflammation-causing conditions in general.
In fact, even the medical establishment admitted in a recent study that cannabis is effective at treating nerve pain.
Senior bus trips to qualifying docs in big cities?
When I tell people about all the seniors at the dispensary, the reaction from seniors themselves always is, “Yep, yep!” It’s almost kind of amusing to me. Again, I’m not sure why, other than the fact that I love how they could care less about the stigma attached to cannabis. Which to me, just says so much.
The next thing they always tell me about is a friend somewhere who is able to get edibles. “They have cookies, candy, even coffee.”
I always say, “I know, they have that at the dispensary I go to in Milan (Illinois)!” To which they light up upon hearing, especially if they’re local.
Perhaps the Quad-City Times Plus 60 Club should plan a bus trip to The Healing Center in Chicago, where I got my medical cannabis card.
“Join the Quad-City Times’ Bill Wundram and KWQC’s Paula Sands on a delightful trip to Chicago, where seniors can apply for cannabis cards. You’ll learn about concentrates and edibles while watching ‘Reefer Madness’ aboard our deluxe motor coach. Cost is $800 for the day trip which includes the cost of your cannabis card and seeing the doctor for the two required, back-to-back appointments.”
I’m kidding of course, and yet, it would fill up in a day. And it really would cost about $800 if you’re going to add in the bus cost and a way for whomever puts the trip together to make money. It cost me $600 to drive myself to Chicago, see the doctor, and get the card.
For most elderly people, the biggest hurdle to medical cannabis likely is cost.
It’s not for a lack of interest, that’s for sure. In fact, I interviewed for a job on Upwork a while back where I would have been going into assisted living communities in California and educating seniors about medical cannabis.
I may have ended up being offered the job, but I pulled out when “Tell us more!” during the interview process turned into me saying, “I’ve told you enough already! My rate is $27.50 per hour!”
My interview for a job explaining cannabis to seniors
They must have liked what I had to say, because they sure wanted more. But the Upwork interview process easily can turn into free work, and I don’t play that.
Here’s what they asked me, and what I told them:
What would your main message be to senior homes on why they should allow us to be present?
I said: If the seniors who are mobile and still drive, or have lots of friends who visit, are not educated about what strains may help them if they do get the card, they could self-medicate willy-nilly. Marijuana is medication and the seniors need to understand that no two bowls of weed are necessarily the same. If they are not educated about indica, sativa, CBD (I’d now add terpenes) and THC in an era of widespread availability, the results could be disastrous. No two strains are appropriate for all people.”
They asked: What obstacles do you foresee with contacting senior homes regarding presenting cannabis and how do you plan on overcoming this?
I said: Some may flat out refer to federal law just to avoid the entire conversation. So, it’s important to reassure them first and foremost of what the laws are (in their state and whether there is a logical federal threat…which it increasingly appears there might be, at least to me). Second, they need to be convinced…that it’s important to be ahead of the curve…as it pertains to medical marijuana. It is here to say and at some point, residents are going to start inquiring about keeping it in their units.
Worse, they could start getting it off the streets from their children and grandchildren as the green movement sweeps the nation.
Half of all medical cannabis cardholders are parents, study shows
In terms of hard statistics to back up my theory about the mature medical cannabis market, I found a recent HelloMD study that was reported by Marketwatch. HelloMD is an online service that connects people seeking a medical cannabis card in qualifying states with live doctors. It’s pretty incredible.
The Marketwatch report, headlined “Mom and dad make up 45 percent of medical marijuana patients,” found:
“Nearly 85 percent of medical marijuana patients had some form of higher education – nearly 15 percent held a postgraduate degree – and about 45 percent were parents.”
The survey included responses from 1,400 patients.
I’m not the first blogger or news organization to report about or pontificate on the senior medical cannabis market. And it’s important we do so, because above all, the safety of elderly people in the medical cannabis era is paramount. Full-on federal legalization is inevitable at some point.
Preaching the plant’s benefits to retirement communities
If you think this job I applied for sounds unbelievably wacky, it isn’t.
CBS News reported recently about a cannabis club at the Rossmoor retirement company in Walnut Creek, in the San Francisco Bay area. Its president, Renee Lee, is quoted.
“We caution, especially the seniors, to stay away from edibles, and really start slow,” she told CBS News. “We start with low dosage, we start in the early evening, telling them not to drive, not to mix alcohol. There’s a lot of cautions, a lot of education that comes along with it.”
This is interesting to know, because the first thing most seniors ask me when they learn I have a cannabis card is whether I’ve tried the edibles.
Many seniors swear by edibles. In fact, in the same CBS news story, 68-year-old Sue Taylor describes how she uses cannabis gummis for sleep and pain.
What did Sue, a retiree, used to do? Work as a high school principal. Her son, who’s in the pot business, introduced her to weed.
Scientific American on cannabis use among the elderly
I think I would really feel like I had arrived if ever I landed a paid assignment with Scientific American.
They are absolutely the best at what I like to think I try to do.
They recently reported on research published in June in the journal Nature Medicine. To quote their prose:
“Picture the stereotypical pot smoker: young, dazed, and confused. Marijuana has long been known for its psychoactive effects, which can include cognitive impairment. But new research…suggests the drug might affect older users very differently than young ones – at least in mice.
Instead of impairing learning and memory, as it does in young people, the drug appears to reverse age-related declines in the cognitive performance of elderly mice.”
The esteemed publication quotes Andreas Zimmer of the University of Bonn in Germany. When young mice were given low amounts of THC, they could barely even find a safety platform in a water maze.
But when elderly mice were given THC, they could find the platform as well as untreated young mice. Without THC, the elderly mice had far more difficulty finding the platform than untreated young mice.
“The effects were very robust, very profound,” Zimmer said.
Although we badly want to when it suits us, but know better when it doesn’t, we can’t immediately convey mice results to humans in any medical study. Costly clinical trials are needed.
Such trials generally are funded by Pharma, which has some of the deepest pockets on the planet. Pharma’s not in the business of funding cannabis trials, of course, because it’s not good for business.
But what makes Scientific American so special is that it goes on to report the “mechanisms of action” – why it may be that THC affects elderly mice in this way – in ways that are easy to understand. You can check it out for yourself right here.
Cannabis as a treatment for Alzheimer’s?
You may also have heard in the news lately that cannabis may help people with Alzheimer’s. This is in part due to the CBD found in cannabis.
A recent Australian study, a review of 27 previous studies, showed that CBD may help with several neurological disorders and even schizophrenia. The study was published in the journal Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews.
“From this review, we found that CBD will not improve learning and memory in healthy brains, but may improve aspects of learning and memory in illnesses associated with cognitive impairment, including Alzheimer’s disease, as well as neurological and neuro-inflammatory disorders,” project leader, Dr. Katrina Green said in a news release. “Evidence suggests that CBD is neuroprotective and can reduce cognitive impairment associated with use of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive component of cannabis.”
As for schizophrenia, “CBD may be able to treat some of the symptoms of schizophrenia that are seemingly resistant to existing medications,” Green reported. “In addition, CBD treatment did not alter body weight or food intake, which are common side effects of antipsychotic drug treatment.”
In fact, Green learned CBD cancels out the harmful effects of THC in people with cognitive impairment. This has long been referred to the “entourage effect” of cannabis. Part of its appeal is how its two medicinal compounds, plus terpenes, create a powerful medicine with very few, if any, negative side effects in most people.
Yet we’re still fighting its use while turning even seniors into addicts with opioids and anxiety medications cranked out by Pharma. Not to mention that by denying seniors cannabis, we’re giving those with alcohol problems even more reason to medicate anxiety and depression with booze. When used in combination with prescription medications, in particular, the result could be death.
To end on a serious, responsible and balanced note, I used to write for a Fortune 500 chain of addiction treatment centers and psychiatric hospitals. Substance abuse among the elderly population and the caregiving population is very, very real. If you or someone you know might have a substance abuse problem, check out these stories I wrote for Foundations Recovery Network: