Seniors and Marijuana

CBS NEWS |  May 1, 2016, 9:30 AM

Can it really be true that so many older people nowadays will “Just Say Yes”? Yes to using marijuana, that is? Our Cover Story is reported by Barry Petersen:

Sue Taylor works hard to stay fit, and stay healthy. This 68-year-old is a regular at the gym, eats kale to keep her cholesterol down, and at home, “homemade” is her motto.

But there’s one thing in her healthy lifestyle that may come as a surprise: she includes MARIJUANA in her quest to stay youthful.

She showed Petersen her Gummi Cares: “It has the consistency of a gummi, and I use it for sleep and pain when I need to.”

Taylor was a high school principal, preaching the dangers of drugs. But after her son got into the pot business, and as she began to learn more about marijuana, she changed her mind. Now she is a convert — make that an ADVOCATE — for aging Americans using marijuana.

She speaks at community meetings, explaining why pot may be good for them.

And she’s got statistics on her side. Polling confirms that more and more Americans age 55 and up are using more and more marijuana.

One reason is geography: almost half of Americans live in a place where marijuana is legal for recreational or medical purposes.

Sue (who’s known as “the Weed Lady”) lives in California, one of the states where medical marijuana requires only a doctor’s prescription.

So what are the kinds of things marijuana helps if you’re a senior? “Number one is arthritis,” Taylor said. “There are tinctures and rubs that you could actually put on your legs, on your knees, across your back, wherever you’re having any arthritic pain. Most seniors use the cannabis for pain and to sleep.”

Dr. Igor Grant, a distinguished professor and chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, is frustrated that there isn’t more money for research. “But I so think we are turning a corner on that,” he said.

Dr. Grant is the recipient of one of the rare federal grants allowing him to research the potential benefits of pot.

“First of all, there is increasing evidence that cannabis is helpful in the management of certain kinds of pain,” he said. And it’s the kind of discomfort experienced by seniors, like sharp pains felt by nerve damage, caused by things like chemotherapy or diabetes.