In 1937, the federal government made cannabis illegal. For forty years, cannabis was not legally available in any form until 1990s when its medical benefits began to be recognized, and medical cannabis was provided to the first few patients in need. Since then, our understanding of cannabis and its effects have grown exponentially. Twenty-three states, as well as Washington DC, have legalized medical marijuana, and of those, four have approved the recreational use of cannabis–with more set to follow their lead. 1

In that time, the conversation about medical cannabis has evolved, as well as who is a part of that conversation. Physicians who had once been opponents of medical cannabis are forced to challenge their conventional thinking as the number of conditions found to be treated by cannabis continues to increase -in particular, those afflicting older patients, including arthritis, chronic pain, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and Parkinson’s. 2 Cannabis offers a wide variety of medical benefits for seniors, all while greatly reducing the dependence on painkillers and decreasing the number of accidental deaths caused by narcotics. 3

How it all works

The human body produces cannabinoids naturally within every living person. They attach themselves to specialized cell receptors in the body controlling our appetite, sensation of pain, effecting our mood and our memory. As the body ages, and when it is not working as it should be, it produces less and less cannabinoids, causing negative effects on our appetite, excess pain and array of different psychological disorders. 4

However, and luckily, it is these same cannabinoids that occur naturally in cannabis–giving seniors living with chronic pain, or previously called "untreatable" conditions, a chance to not only feel better, but to actually get better! 

The Benefits

Of all the benefits from medicinal marijuana, there are a few in particular that serve the unique needs of the senior community. 

First of all, cannabis is safer than most commonly prescribed drugs. Unlike many prescription medications, there are no significant side effects of using medical marijuana. Every year people are hospitalized due to side effects of medications that are meant to help them. Headaches and muscle pain, blood clots, bowel discomfort, and even death are common side effects of regularly prescribed drugs.  Medical marijuana is incredibly safe and no one has ever died from a marijuana overdose. Discontinuing the use of marijuana is also safe and easy, unlike many prescription drugs. And it does not have to be smoked. Marijuana can be ingested through vapor, cannabis-infused oils, and can be mixed into just about any recipe. 5

Marijuana has been proven to alleviate chronic pain.

Scientific studies have shown that cannabinoids provide relief from arthritis and neuropathy pain, as well as the inflammation caused by long-term conditions such as Hepatitis C, lupus, and or even irritable bowel syndrome. With advances in modern cannabis medicine, there have become an array of different intake methods, most of which are geared toward getting the cannabinoids in your body without having a large psychoactive effect (i.e. without getting high).  The discovery and isolation of CBD was a massive breakthrough in this regard, however, Marijuana-infused ointments are also very effective for joint and muscle pain, offering comfort without the high.

Marijuana can reduce the effects of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Marijuana encourages new neural pathways, essentially stalling, and even preventing further degradation. Marijuana can even improve brain function by slowing the formation of plaque that kills brain cells in Alzheimer’s patients. It can also significantly reduce pain and tremors in Parkinson’s patients and provide them relief and improved sleep. 6

Marijuana is an effective appetite stimulant.

One of the biggest health risks to seniors and adults with cancer is the loss of appetite and resulting weight loss. Medical marijuana has proven to successfully alleviate nausea, vomiting, and the loss of appetite that accompany chemotherapy and other prescription medications. Decreasing nausea helps seniors and cancer patients to stabilize their weight by increasing their appetite, and allowing them to enjoy eating food again. 

Marijuana can be used to treat eye disease such as Glaucoma. 

Glaucoma occurs when fluid inside the eye increases in pressure and damages the optic nerve, resulting in a loss of vision. Marijuana relieves the build-up of pressure in the eyes and can even slow the progression of the disease, helping patients keep their vision.

Why do seniors need Medical Cannabis?

Doctors see all sorts of social injustices that are written on the human body, one person at a time. But this one - the rote denial of a palliative care drug like marijuana to people with serious illness–smacks of pure cruelty precisely because it is so easily remediable, precisely because it prioritizes service to a cold political agenda over the distressed lives and deaths of real human beings. 

Washington bureaucrats - far removed from the troubled bedsides of sick and dying patients–are ignoring what patients, doctors and health care workers are telling them about real world suffering. In a society that has witnessed extensive positive experiences with medicinal marijuana, as long as it is safe and not proven to be ineffective, why shouldn't seriously ill patients have access to it? 7

Antona Stanley

If your still skeptical about seniors using medical cannabis, watch this video of "Grandmas Smoking Weed for the First Time". (Click the image below)