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Marijuana May Heal Health Problems That Come With Old Age: How Can People Living in Senior Homes Get It?

From pain and trouble sleeping to cancer and dementia, pot can be a godsend for seniors.
 
 
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Sue Taylor, a retired Catholic school principal and grandmother from Oakland, California, was living in Atlanta, Georgia writing a parenting handbook when she got a phone call from her son that would disrupt her life.

“He told me, ‘Mom, I know how you can open up your metaphysical holistic center,’ which had been my goal,” Taylor said. Taylor had earned a degree in divinity in Atlanta and is now a metaphysical minister. “He said, ‘It will be supported by a cannabis dispensary.’”

“Cannabis dispensary?” Taylor asked him. “You talkin’ about that marijuana stuff?”

Yes, he was.

“My true thoughts were, ‘We put this child through Catholic school all his life... we paid for him to go to college… and he calls me and tells me he’s gonna sell weed?” Taylor said.

In a panic over what she thought was her son’s descent into drugs, Taylor scrambled to pack her belongings, rented out her house, and flew back to Oakland.

“I’m not gonna lose him to drugs,” she told herself.

When Taylor tells this story now, she laughs. Today she works as the senior outreach coordinator for Oakland’s enormous medical cannabis dispensary Harborside Health Center. Her job is to educate seniors who, like her, often think of marijuana as anything but a legitimate medicine. She sits on the Commission on Aging in Alameda County and visits retirement homes and senior groups. She also hosts luncheons and seminars to educate people about various cannabis medicine options. 

When she arrived in Oakland, Taylor’s son told her about the classes he’d been taking at Oaksterdam University, a cannabis trade school that teaches students to grow, sell and advocate for marijuana medicine. In Oakland, as in the rest of California, the use of cannabis for medical purposes is legal with a doctor’s recommendation. 

Taylor’s son showed her stacks of research on cannabis and introduced her to professionals in the cannabis industry—scientists, advocates, dispensary workers. She learned that no one has ever died from cannabis ingestion or overdose, and that hundreds of medical studies of the herb have proven its promising healing potentials. She learned that cannabis has been used for healing for thousands of years and that it has been successfully used by countless patients in California and beyond for decades to treat pain, nausea, inflammation and dozens of other symptoms. She also learned that it’s generally safer and more effective than synthetic pharmaceutical drugs, especially for the elderly—and it's much cheaper.

While the literature and statistics were compelling enough to convince her that her son wasn’t in trouble, nothing convinced her of its medicinal potentials more than the patients she met. She watched people who had serious, chronic illnesses like arthritis, joint pain, even cancer, as they were healed by cannabis.

“I have a particular friend who works at a dispensary down in San Jose who told me last June that her mom had cancer as big as a lemon in her left lung,” Taylor said. “Now she is cancer-free. CBD [cannabidiol] tablets did it.”

CBD is one of the many compounds in cannabis that interact with the human body via the endocannabinoid system. Unlike THC ( tetrahydrocannabinol), it doesn’t give consumers the euphoric “high” feeling. Decades of severe government restrictions have effectively blocked clinical research on cannabis in the U.S., but there have been numerous reports of CBD tablets reversing cancer symptoms. AlterNet recently ran an article on a teen who beat terminal brain cancer using CBD medicine. Strains of cannabis high in CBD are also known to help with seizures, and in particular childhood epilepsy.