A word to those seniors who are cannabis-curious


A new medical marijuana dispensary aimed at seniors just jumped through another hoop in its bid for acceptance in Berkeley, California. Hopeful proprietor Sue Taylor says her business, if approved, would provide services for seniors with compatible medical strains and remedies alongside health and information classes aimed at the fast-growing retirement crowd. It would be the first, she says, in the nation.

It’s not like everybody will immediately start inhaling the day after they stop working, but the baby boom generation is still the pig in the python of American demographics. About 10,000 Americans turn 65 today, and about 10,000 more will be crossing that river every day for the next 19 years. That’s an enormous potential market.

If there is a senior-themed dispensary in Colorado, I don’t know about it. But reading about the one in Berkeley got me thinking. I’m officially classified as a senior citizen, and although I haven’t used cannabis specifically as medicine, I believe it’s been helpful to my life, health and general well-being. I’m hardly alone. Though you won’t read about it in official tourist propaganda, it’s a fact that some retirees’ decisions on where to live include whether that state has legalized medical or recreational marijuana, and Colorado’s population growth is off the charts these days.

So the idea of appealing in some way to seniors in dispensaries might be something to think about. I feel comfortable talking with budtenders young enough to be my grandchildren about the potency pros and cons of the latest batch of Bruce Banner, but I can certainly see that not everybody my age might feel as relaxed deciding between an eighth of Trainwreck or Girl Scout Cookies. It’s a new world in cannabis out there.

Two things seniors are finding cannabis helpful for is relief from serious pain and nausea. Doctors can write prescriptions for both conditions in Colorado, as well as cancer, glaucoma, HIV, chronic illness, persistent muscle spasms and seizures.

I’m hardly anti-prescription drugs and ever more aware that the older you get, the more chances there are for some part of your body to produce pain. But still, when I read about the number of seniors being prescribed opioids for pain relief without even the option of using cannabis, it gives me pause.

Some doctors will argue that there haven’t been enough studies. But considering the side effects of serious drugs like oxycodone or Vicodin, do seniors really have anything to lose consuming an edible that might soothe pain and elevate their mood and appetite instead of leaving them with unwanted side effects?

There are new strains low in THC and high in CBD, which are helping with symptoms of arthritis, nausea and muscle spasms for those who don’t want the “high.” Oh, and did I mention that if you’ve made it to retirement age, a little cannabis certainly isn’t going to hurt you now?

To obtain a medical card, you must be a Colorado resident receiving treatment for and examined by a doctor with whom you have a relationship. Not every doctor will prescribe cannabis — mine won’t — but 266 state physicians have signed prescriptions for 113,585 patients as of June 2015. The average age of a medical patient is 42. The cost is $15.

If you can’t meet those qualifications, you’re still old enough to buy recreational cannabis at a dispensary. Budtenders I speak with see a lot of seniors, including first timers and the cannabis-curious who stopped using in their youth and are interested again. Most want to discuss that person’s history and how dosage affects people before they recommend anything, and they all explain the basic philosophy of taking things slowly. There is a learning process involved. You won’t find as many items as you might in a medical dispensary, but recreational shops carry an assortment of topical ointments, creams and salves for everything from sore joints to cuts and scratches.

The point here is that if you’re a senior and cannabis-curious, you should talk with your doctor, read the literature (there’s plenty on both sides of the issue) question everything (including this column) and make up your own mind, especially if you or someone you know is having problems with pain meds. And after reading the literature, if you’re still curious, head for a dispensary and have a long talk with your favorite budtender. The Bruce Banner is really nice this time of year.

You can hear Leland discuss his most recent column and Colorado cannabis issues each Thursday morning on KGNU. http://news.kgnu.org/weed

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