Medical marijuana helps ease pain and inflammation and the older generation suffering from chronic pain are the group that marijuana companies hope will become major consumers. The stigma surrounding marijuana may be the largest challenge for companies to overcome with the older generation. The solution to misconceptions is education and so seminars are being conducted in senior living centers. Have you researched medical marijuana?
On a recent Friday at the Balfour Riverfront Park senior living facility in downtown Denver, an unusual event took place among the day’s regular activities. In between scrapbooking at the Sky Bar and water walking in the Pompeii Pool, the facility was hosting a “cannabis 101” seminar in the Moffat Depot community room.
As one of the 50 or so attendees bellows at his neighbors to quiet the chitchat, Joseph Cohen, medical director at Holos Health, a Denver holistic medicine and medical marijuana evaluation center, steps in front of the audience in the sunlight-filled room, tastefully decorated with golden chandeliers, chenille couches, and potted mock orange trees. “I will try to go slower than my usual pace for my talk,” he says into a microphone, noting he’d be discussing cannabis’ uses for a variety of age-related diseases.
“The idea is to minimize psychoactive activity and maximize therapeutic effects,” he says, then adds with a smile, “Unless you want to have psychoactivity. Then go for it.”
This free seminar is the brainchild of Stratos, a Colorado marijuana company that produces medical cannabis tablets. Since launching in 2014, the firm has found its simple and discreet product lines — which come in somber bottles with names like “Sleep,” “Relax,” and “Energy” — are a hit among one demographic in particular: seniors. “The baby boomer generation has been huge for us,” says Kate Heckman, Stratos’ sales director, who’s watching Cohen’s presentation from the side of the room.
Stratos stumbled upon a seemingly surprising phenomenon: According to a 2016 study, seniors are the fastest-growing pot demographic in the country, with marijuana use among those 55 and older increasing by 53 percent between 2013 and 2014. But the trend isn’t as unusual as it might sound: Many of the ailments cannabis is most often used to treat are those that often plague the elderly, such as joint inflammation and pain, insomnia, muscle spasms, and decreased appetite.
Many older consumers have disposable income to spend on marijuana, at least according to the sort of luxury senior-living amenities on view at Balfour Riverfront. The compound, nestled in the heart of Denver’s booming downtown and surrounded by modern condos and lush riverfront gardens, feels more like an all-inclusive resort than an assisted-living facility, with its valet parking out front and open-air patio bars. For the most part, the residents attending the cannabis 101 talk look hale and healthy, boasting the poise and vigor of those who’ve earned a comfy retirement. Cohen, with his comfortable short-sleeved shirt, well-manicured beard, and grey ponytail, fits right in.
Balfour is part of a growing trend of operations and organizations tackling the issue of seniors and marijuana use. For years, Harborside Health Center, a prominent dispensary in Oakland, California, has been hosting monthly support groups for patients over 50. In early 2017, New York City nursing home captured headlines for allowing residents to store and use cannabis on site. The storied National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) has organized cannabis informational sessions and lobbying efforts geared towards seniors under its so-called “Silver Tour.” And earlier this year, the Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine, a major organization of medical providers, discussed cannabis use at its annual conference. Judging from the interest at this cannabis 101 seminar, events like these won’t be the last of their kind.