Cannabis and the Elderly
Cannabis is not just for adults and children suffering from rare seizure disorders. According to
the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the elderly are also
getting in on the action. Individuals aged 55-59 years old that used marijuana tripled from
2002-2008. At the moment, most of those people who participated in the SAMHSA survey are
either approaching senior citizenship status, or are already there.
Green Benefits for Senior Citizens
Elderly groups are known to suffer from a wide range of serious ailments, such as arthritis,
malnutrition and chronic pain (sometimes, or in most cases a combination of diseases), that are
treated using prescription medicines. Taking a handful of pills every day over a long period of
time can slowly damage the body, leaving the individual physically and mentally depleted.
Furthermore, if the patient is generally inactive, issuing medicine with sedating side effects,
including nausea and drowsiness, could cause the person to become isolated or disconnected
from his or her surroundings. This is why some seniors are turning to cannabis.
“I carry a little container with a rolled cigarette, and if I have nausea I know that it is because I
haven’t taken enough pot,” said Margo Bauer, a 75-year- old patient suffering from chronic
nausea and vomiting (closely linked to her multiple sclerosis diagnosis). Bauer explained that
most people her age are seeking medical marijuana treatments to improve their quality of life.
Accessibility and Education
The two main obstacles that senior citizens are facing, when it comes to cannabis, includes
accessibility and education. The latter issue stems from exposure to decades of anti-marijuana
propaganda, as well as strict cannabis possession and consumption laws. Simply put, some
individuals in their golden years still think weed is illegal throughout the country, and refuse to
acknowledge its medicinal benefits. It also doesn’t help that a handful of assisted living facilities
are shunning medical cannabis groups in fear of losing their business practices.
Sue Taylor, senior outreach coordinator for Harborside Health Center in Oakland, California, the
largest cannabis dispensary in the United States, experienced firsthand the obstacles of
reaching out to senior demographics living in care homes. “They wouldn’t let me in, because
they were afraid of losing funding and getting put out of the building for even smoking,” said
Representatives like Taylor are essential for increasing cannabis accessibility for the elderly.
Such individuals are typically unable to go to a local medical dispensary on their own, and
require assistance from a third-party to purchase the herb. "We can't ask a facility staff member
to go in and purchase on behalf of a resident, so what we recommend is finding a collective
that will deliver if the individual is unable to purchase it on their own," highlighted Molly
Davies, vice president of the Elder Abuse Prevention and Ombudsman Services Wise & Healthy
Aging in Los Angeles.
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