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Cannabis Medicine Offers Seniors A New Way To Grow Old

More seniors than ever are turning to medical marijuana to treat their age-related illnesses.
Photo Sonya Yruel - Courtesy of Drug Policy Alliance


Cannabis Medicine Offers Seniors A New Way To Grow Old

A rapidly growing number of senior citizens are embracing the herbal alternative to opioids and other pharmaceuticals offered by cannabis and using medical marijuana to treat their age-related illnesses. Thankfully, the medical and senior care communities are also becoming more receptive to the possibilities of cannabis medicine.

Maybe it’s because contemporary cannabis culture in the United States is so inextricably bound to the legacy of the “Summer of Love,” but cannabis use is often associated with young people and youth culture. However, medical cannabis is becoming more socially accepted with each passing year, and it isn’t just the new generations exploring the plant’s healing and palliative properties.

A recent report from the Gerontological Society of America said that there’s no doubt more seniors are using cannabis medicine, and that many are experiencing benefits.

From the report:

“Cannabis may be an effective substitute for prescription opioids and other misused medications… [and] has emerged as an alternative for the under treatment of pain at the end of life.”

The report attributes the recent uptick in senior cannabis medicine use to a complex suite of factors.

“Cannabis use among older Americans is increasing. Although much of this growth has been attributed to the entry of a more tolerant baby boom cohort into older age, recent evidence suggests the pathways to cannabis are more complex,” the report said. “Some older persons have responded to changing social and legal environments and are increasingly likely to take cannabis recreationally. Other older persons are experiencing age-related health care needs, and some take cannabis for symptom management, as recommended by a medical doctor.”

Thankfully for those seniors embracing cannabis medicine, some medical treatment and retirement facilities are starting to embrace it as well.

One such facility, a nursing home in the Bronx, New York, is letting its residents medicate with cannabis.

From the New York Times:

“Hebrew Home at Riverdale, is taking the unusual step of helping its residents use medical marijuana under a new program to treat various illnesses with an alternative to prescription drugs. While the staff will not store or administer pot, residents are allowed to buy it from a dispensary, keep it in locked boxes in their rooms and take it on their own.”

And while this growing trend may be heartening to those seniors relying on cannabis for relief from chronic conditions, there’s still the chilling shadow of looming federal enforcement casting a pall of uncertainty over the massive legislative progress made at the state level. Which explains why places like Hebrew Home are still in the minority when it comes to cannabis policies at senior facilities.

This can have devastating consequences for seniors unfortunate enough to be in the wrong state, or simply at the wrong facility.

From the Times:

“Even in states where medical marijuana is legal, older people who stand to benefit often cannot get it. Most nursing homes do not openly sanction its use, and many doctors are reluctant to endorse pot use, saying not enough is known about the risks in the oldest age groups.”

So while cannabis medicine shows great promise and increased success in treating age-related illness, seniors hoping to benefit from it will have to deal with the same legal uncertainty as the rest of us, at least for the time being.

TELL US, do you use cannabis medicine to treat an age-related illness?

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