Recently medical cannabis use in seniors nationwide has skyrocketed. The number of people in the U.S. over the age of 65 using some form of cannabis rose 250% from 2007. Why? Studies have shown that medical marijuana can effectively help treat a wide variety of common ailments of the elderly from arthritis to Alzheimer’s. One local retirement home held a workshop called Cannabis 101 for Seniors to educate the community about the science behind cannabis use. KGNU’s Sarah Dalgleish paid a visit to Balfour Senior Living in Louisville where a packed room of seniors gathered to hear about one thing: cannabis. Dr. Joe Cohen begins his presentation on the benefits of medical cannabis for seniors as several shouts from the mostly white-haired audience request he speak up louder. Cohen is part of Holos Health, which provides consultation and care for people using medical marijuana to treat various ailments. I spoke to him after the presentation.
“Many age-related diseases are treatable with cannabis. You have age-related diseases such as pain from arthritis, degenerative disc disease– that is common with the elderly. It helps treat their pain and inflammation. It helps reduce their spasms. You have many patients who have neuro-degenerative diseases: dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s. It actually helps treat those diseases and reduce the symptoms as well as protecting the brain so that it’s less likely to progress further along. The concern that a lot of our elders have is they don’t want to get high. So we go into a ratio of CBD, which is a non-psychoactive part of the plant, which higher than the THC part and then they don’t get the psycho-activity. Then we can treat their issues without them being stoned. Cannabis is the ideal exit drug. When we had “reefer madness” back in the day, we were told that cannabis was a gateway drug, that you use cannabis and next thing you’ll be on heroin. Well, it’s the exit drug. It’s the complete opposite because it does three things. It replaces the need for opioids, pain meds, and benzos, it reduces the withdrawal effects when you go off these drugs, and it protects the brain from brain destruction that happens as you’re weening off these drugs.”
An audience member who wished to remain anonymous said she’s been an advocate of medical marijuana for years but recognizes that there’s still a stigma surrounding its use.
“I think it’s all about education. People really need to learn and understand that a lot of the things that we’ve been taught or we’ve been reading or heard, especially coming from the government, aren’t really true. They’re just not true. And it’s education much like Joe Cohen did today that helps break through that stigma. It’s an education where people get to see that cannabis can affect our bodies in so many helpful and healing ways, it’s actually mind-blowing.”
Linda, another attendee of the workshop, said her only two qualms about medical cannabis were that it’s too expensive and too inaccessible from her New York home.
“If it were less expensive and more convenient, I would definitely want to try it.”
Dalgleish: “Were your opinions changed at all by the presentation that was just given?”
Linda: “Oh definitely for positive reinforcement.”
Balfour representative Lindsay Mitchell explains how medical cannabis is regulated among residents of the assisted living home.
“All Balfour communities are non-smoking campuses, whether it’s marijuana or tobacco, so if they do decide that marijuana is something that they want to partake in, then it would have to be an edible or a tablet. After today’s presentation, I’ve been talking to many residents and they’re just shocked at how much they didn’t know, how CBD versus THC can be so effective versus the all the prescriptions. I think that stigma is definitely changing for the better. As more senior living communities expose our senior population to the benefits of medical marijuana, we could see that stigma go away all together hopefully.”
Though pot-wielding grandparents may seem like a bit of an oxymoron, the overall attitude towards medical cannabis at this retirement home seems to be a big green plus.