Senior citizens make up one of the fastest-growing demographics of cannabis consumers. Unfortunately, seniors are often uneducated about the advances in marijuana over the last few decades. So instead of creating a podcast or YouTube video, a team of cannabis professionals have joined with a senior living facility to bring higher learning to its residents and other interested people.
Infused-tablet company Stratos and medical-marijuana evaluation clinic Holos Health have been hosting a series of Cannabis 101 classes at Balfour Senior Living residences, traveling to the Balfour facilities in Louisville and Denver to teach senior citizens about how cannabis can help their age-related ailments.
"We all know about the munchies," Dr. Joe Cohen told the crowd as they settled in at Balfour at Riverfront Park on August 18. "We are wired for this plant. It's the most therapeutic drug known to man."
Cohen and representatives from Stratos told the crowd about new ways to ingest cannabis, such as vaporizing and innovative edible products, showing them how much easier it is to dose with five- or ten-milligram edibles compared to a joint off the street.
Sara Suter, a quadriplegic who suffers from spinal cord neuropathy, rotator cuff pain and tendonitis, has been living at Balfour for nearly two years. She'd been using only Tylenol for body pain, abstaining from opioids to the point of not being able to pronounce the word. Although she'd tried medical marijuana over five years ago, she says she received virtually no guidance from her recommending physician and was forced to experiment with edibles and hash-oil vaporizers. Finally, she found something that works.
"Now that I've been taking this cannabis in the pill, it relaxes me," she says. "Then I got this vapor cigarette, and I wasn't sure what I was doing with that – if I was getting a big enough drag or just a tiny one. But I really like the pills."
Approaching seniors with cannabis in the form of pills, creams, balms and other traditional forms of application makes many of them more open to giving infused products a try, Cohen says. "When we see patients coming into our offices, a lot of times they're new to cannabis," he explains. "The first thing they'll say when they come through the door is, 'I don't want to get high.' So we'll hear that initially and we can talk about CBDs and make them feel comfortable with the fact that they don't have to get stoned if they don't want to be."
Cohen didn't just speak to the group about medical marijuana's effect on joint pain. He dove into the history of the plant and the propaganda against it that many of the attendees had heard while growing up. He also spoke about the body's endocannabinoid system, effective micro-dosing with edibles and medicating with non-psychoactive compounds, such as CBD.
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"We did a previous talk in Louisville. We probably had a couple hundred people there. We were hearing from patients afterward who had completely changed their views on cannabis," he says. "Many were opposed or afraid of it, but by the time we left, they were convinced that it could be a therapeutic approach for them."
Although Balfour residents are allowed to consume edibles on the property, smoking isn't allowed. Still, Balfour founder and CEO Michael Schonbrun, who's also on the board of National Jewish Health, wanted to give his residents a way to safely consume marijuana. "We noticed that a few folks who were always out of sorts suddenly became a lot happier and more pleasant to deal with," he said of the atmosphere at Balfour after marijuana was legalized. "It seemed to make sense to set up and say, 'Here's information; it's up to you.'"
The Balfour staff doesn't offer marijuana to residents, whether medical or recreational. "Maybe as a child of the ’60s, this isn't so scary to me," Schonbrun continued. "It's not on the menu in any dining rooms. There's no Alice B. Toklas brownies the chef prepares, but if somebody wants to make their own mix, they're free to do that."
Stratos and Holos Health will hold two more Cannabis 101 classes at Balfour residences, with classes on August 23 and September 15 at the Louisville and Stapleton locations, respectively.