The golden years just might go better with pot


So you’re one of the 13 percent of Boulderites who are over 55 years of age. It’s been almost a year and a half since marijuana legalization, and you’ve sat on the sidelines watching the experiment unfold. Maybe you tried it in college. Perhaps you weren’t willing to break the law when it was illegal. You’re curious but not sure how to proceed.

You’re not alone. The fastest-growing segment of the population to use marijuana is the (wink, wink) “older” demographic. Eight percent of people aged 50 to 64 said they had used marijuana in the last year, and those numbers are only expected to grow in the next few years.

There’s never been a better time for seniors, especially in Colorado, to find out about whether or not marijuana might be beneficial. Are there good reasons so many Americans use marijuana, and not just as medication? Or that more and more states and legislators are opting to allow cannabis to be regulated much like alcohol?

The answer to both questions is yes. Marijuana is a drug, and it certainly isn’t for everybody. I have friends on both sides of the fence. Legalization gives you a choice: If you’re interested or curious, look into it. If you’re not, you should stay away.

Basically, what do you have to lose? All those recent headlines about cannabis killing brain cells or lowering IQ are, at least so far, more wishful thinking than scientific fact, especially if, like most people, you’re a casual user. You probably saw the recent rash of stories about a study that suggested that casual marijuana use is linked to brain changes. University of Colorado researchers who reviewed those studies found no correlation between cannabis use and brain changes when alcohol use, gender, age and other variables were factored. (That study didn’t get as many headlines.)

One thing to consider is the concept of “getting high.” Watching television or reading the anti-mari juana literature, you might get the idea that cannabis makes you crazy. I have never understood this. The feeling, at least for me and everyone I know, is always euphoric, always relaxing. Steve Jobs put it best when he once told Pentagon interviewers: “The best way I would describe the effect of the marijuana and the hashish is that it would make me relaxed and creative.” That certainly doesn’t mean it will do the same for everyone, but then again, it doesn’t take long to find out if whether you like the “high” or not since the effects of smoked marijuana happen almost immediately.

Another thing you often read is that marijuana is stronger than it used to be. While it might be true that potencies are higher, that doesn’t mean it’s more dangerous — it simply means it’s better quality. It’s not the brick pot smuggled into the country from south of the border for decades. Today it’s grown in better conditions and comes to market fresh. I’d venture that Colorado marijuana is among the bestgrown in the world right now. Don’t buy into the hype that it’s more harmful. Growers are developing medical strains that don’t get you high at all. Some of the significant research is being done at CU, including mapping the cannabis genome, which means the quality will only get better.

If you’re wondering whether you’ll look out of place at the local dispensary, forget about it. You’ll run into people of all ages, and you’ll find the budtenders especially helpful as you seek out the the right strain or edible. Don’t be shy about asking questions — that’s why they’re there. Everybody wants you to have the best experience possible.

One of the big surprises for me was learning the differences in the many kinds now available and being developed. After years of just buying “pot,” it’s really wonderful to try different strains designed to wake you up, give you that mellow creative buzz Jobs was talking about or calm you down. Having problems getting to sleep? Talk to your budtender about a good indica strain.

The most important thing, of course, is to stay informed. There is an abundance of good information and research on the Internet. Spend some time with a search engine looking at the research that has been done on marijuana and health as it relates to seniors. You might be surprised.

No one has ever overdosed on marijuana, and no one ever will. Don’t believe me? Educate yourself. Read the literature — pro and con. Be skeptical of everything. Make up your own mind.

You can hear Leland discuss his most recent column and Colorado cannabis issues each Thursday morning on KGNU.