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Cannabis and Seniors | PotSaver

November 10, 2017

Senior Swag

Traumatic events in the human experience, such as wildfires and the loss of life, force us to take notice of the little things. After walking into a lobby of a high-rise building in Oakland, California, signing in with a security guard (similar to what I’ve seen in New York City)… I walk into the lounge area of an open house for The Hood Incubator, a business determined to help minorities and Oakland residents acquire Equity Applications for Cannabis businesses. I immediately noticed something different…

One: There were only two young people in the room; the rest were elderly.

Two: People were so laid back! It was difficult to tell who the professional and business-minded folks were upon first glance and impression.

cannabis and seniors

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When it comes to cannabis, we can no longer assume who uses the helpful herb and who doesn’t.  Imagine attending a conference or checking out a cannabis event for patients to find one of your college buddies moms or grandmas there with apron and curly white hair, handing out edible samples. This is the dynamic world we live in. With people who have serious needs and ailments and now, with close observation, decision making and even faith, have sought the natural route after the pharmaceutical one previously failed them.  This is a blog focused on the Elderly and the rise of cannabis use amidst their population.

Seniors Smoke Too

cannabis and seniors

Automatically when many of us see an elderly couple holding hands, many initial reactions are “Awwww, how sweet.” When an elder picks up a craft beer, we say “cool!” But when grandma takes a dab or takes a fat inhale from a vape pen, joint or blunt, we hear multiples of “Hell yeah!”

In many places across the country and internationally, the use of cannabis amongst the elderly population is on the rise. Where some communities open their arms and minds to the possibilities of cannabis and it’s healing nature, others (such as many elderly in the densely Asian Sunset neighborhood of San Francisco) either have forgotten, or were never taught, the benefits of the plant. It is interesting to find that a small beach town, known for delicious Polly Ann’s Ice Cream and a charming Noriega Produce market, would be against something that benefits them. It can positively change the lives of many residing down the numbered and alphabetically-named streets.

Cannabis and Culture

cannabis and seniors

Pictured above: Floyd Huen and Jean Quan.

Stigmas travel where education is lacking, and it is very possible that many were not taught their own culture’s history with the plant. Floyd Huen – a known Geriatrician, cannabis advocate and husband – to former mayor, Jean Quan, knows firsthand the stigmas and barriers that present themselves with lack of knowledge.  As soon as Huen entered the community meeting at the Taraval Police Station and tried to start a conversation about cannabis… Advocating for opening the first cannabis business, he was met with obstacles and immediately yelled at by neighborhood residents. They were shouting things such as, “No invaders, no invaders!” and other verbal assaults in Cantonese, causing him to be escorted out.

I am sure there are many within the elderly population with health issues; such as, arthritis, many types of cancer, skin problems, chronic pain, insomnia, dementia, Parkinson’s, muscle spasms, ALS, wasting associated with both HIV and cancer treatments, headaches including migraine headaches, fatigue, vomiting, nausea, Crohn’s Disease, Tourette’s Syndrome, as well as relief from debilitating side-effects associated with cancer treatments. Many in the community view cannabis like they view heavy drugs, like cocaine and heroin, due to past stigmas and demonization. So, it makes perfect sense why a well-known medical professional, such as Floyd Huen, would face such strong opposition from the very community he strives to help.

Your Elder’s Medicine

If you’ve ever wondered whether cannabis amongst the elderly is a recreational or medicinal issue, it is reported that elder patients who use cannabis do so specifically to help combat many ailments listed above.  Out of 3789 Californian’s surveyed who have tried cannabis for a serious condition, 91% said that it helped. With rising medical costs and an unsure political climate which affects healthcare, states involved with cannabis have been saving on Medicare prescription drug costs per year (Journal of Health Affairs 2016).

cannabis and seniors

It is relieving to know that the use of cannabis among the elderly is on the rise. They are finding solutions and relief medically when many institutions built protect them, such as Social Security and healthcare, have many times fallen short. I can only imagine what someone from the Baby Boom era would think when approached with new options for treatment through cannabis. Even DrugAbuse.gov instructs that THC, (Tetrahydocannabinol), the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, “can increase appetite and reduce nausea,” noting “THC may also decrease pain, inflammation and muscle-control problems.”

The Benefits for the Elderly

cannabis and seniorsThe list of benefits from cannabis, even as a preventative precaution to treating chronic diseases, grows with each miraculous scientific finding. Once believed to only treat glaucoma and cataracts in the elderly population, we have recently discovered what ancients over 3,000 years ago already knew. Although it is suggested that cannabis use might possibly be a bad idea for those with intense mental health problems, such as those with cases of schizophrenia, it’s effects on the elderly brain are impressive.

Studies have shown that when given to a patient with Alzheimer’s, it can help reverse memory loss. According to Scientific American, there is now evidence which proves that cannabis use may not dull, but boost the elderly brain.  Pre-treatment can be preventative, protecting the hippocampus – a region in the brain critical for learning, memory, and that increases synaptic response in communication between neurons. Is it really surprising that THC could act like anti-aging molecules? As more studies into the endocannabinoid system surface, through cannabis we learn more about how our bodies fight hard using its own produced cannabinoids.

Elderly Communities

cannabis and seniorsIn Walnut Creek, a small community full of retirees in the San Francisco Bay Area, a Medical Marijuana Education & Support Club has skyrocketed to 530 members. As medical need arises in the elder population, so do support groups throughout the Cannabis-rich state of California. Led by pioneers, such as Femminuri, an organization run by Cara Luhring in San Diego which strives to empower women through cannabis education, and Auntie Aubees out of San Francisco… These organizations have become iconic in providing life-saving information for seniors not just curious about cannabis and its benefits, but enthusiastic and passionate about these amazing safe options for treatment.

“One a grandmother told me, ’now I have to apologize to my grandson, who always comes in smelling like that,’” says Elizabeth, founder of Auntie Aubees Apothocary. She notes how we never know who might be interested in cannabis by look and lifestyle alone. Since cannabis is still considered Federally a Schedule 1 narcotic, prosecutable by the Federal Government, many… although once wary of its uses and abilities to cause positive health effects … are now seeking it out. With the rise of cannabis amongst the elderly, we now see a wave of senior cannabis rebels – educated, empowered, ready and willing to help others suffering from serious diseases.

Numbers Going Up!

According to CBS News, people over the age of 55 are “using more and more marijuana while at the helm of advocacy and the campaign for legalization. The elderly definitely got our back.” I’m envisioning a hippie guy with long hair, back-to-back with a senior with both of their arms crossed.

cannabis and seniors

Just as we can no longer make assumptions of what a classic stoner looks like, neither can we judge our elderly. When polled, a study by the AARP found that under ¾ of people over age 45 believed “adults should be allowed to legally use marijuana for medical purposes if a physician recommends it.” Dr. Igor Grant from the University of California, San Diego agrees. Grant feels that “there is increasing evidence that cannabis is helpful in the management of certain kinds of pain, as well as can be substituted for other, harder medications, such as some pain killers.”

The New York Experience

cannabis and seniorsAcross the homeland in New York City, retirement homes – such as Hebrew Home at Riverdale – have started a program where patients are allowed to purchase from a dispensary and keep a locked box of meds in their rooms for consumption “at their own discretion.” Although side effects aren’t widely known due to lack of study and research… Dizziness, anxiety, headache and possibly heart attack have been sparsely reported, although rare.

Daniel Reingold, president and chief executive of River Spring Health, operates Hebrew Home in the Bronx. He says cannabis helped relieve his father’s pain and was soon eating and laughing again. This occurred after making him medicated tea, remarking “the only relief he gotten those last two weeks was the tea.” Reingold received no push back when requesting approval from the home’s board members. They met him with sarcasm instead… Joking that they would now have to increase the food budget.

Sekou’s Section

If we, as conscious individuals, can remember the joy we felt as a child and direct some of the same compassion towards our elderly population… Not just through cannabis healing, but close attention at helping another achieve a higher quality of life… Then every attempt to do so would be worth more than the ignoring and setting our loved ones in retirement homes. Sometimes people do this to be rid of them out of the complex box we choose to call our busy lives. But maybe there is a better solution.

Now for a poem…

Swinging on an Emerald Star

cannabis and seniorsHope seems afar, even like the nearest star

As what we wished to have sometimes takes shape as smoke trails escape

While shaking hands find steady ways to settle with help

Our elderly fighting battles for all of us with stealth

When life’s plans develop with the help of a growing plant and

Those once before believing, seeing no solutions close

Once again begin to dream with the miraculous reality that we once again can

Marking successes when may others have failed that have tried

Opening arms across while smiles stretch wide

Knowing we have helped close the circle with education

Offering our seniors the same as they have provided us

With green beginnings to ensure a better quality of life