Seniors curious about legal recreational marijuana in the state of Washington are climbing on cannabis tour buses to indulge in some weed. Remembering their younger days, they want to see what makes this legal recreational marijuana different from the dime bags of old.
Forget bingo, tea dances and seaside trips. Residents from a chain of Seattle retirement homes are going on Pot for Beginners tours to learn about – and buy – cannabis in the city, where it’s now legal.
Connie Schick said her son roared with laughter when he heard she was joining a field trip to a cannabis-growing operation, an extraction plant and shop. The 79-year-old, who smoked the odd joint in the 70s, wanted to know how legalisation has changed the way the drug is used and produced.
Schick was one of eight women, from their late 60s to mid-80s, who descended from a minibus emblazoned with the name of their assisted living centre, El Dorado West, outside Vela cannabis store last Tuesday.
“You can only play so many games of bingo,” said Schick. “My son thought it was hilarious that I was coming here, but I’m open-minded and want to stay informed. Cannabis has come so far from the days when you smoked a sly joint and got into trouble if they found out. We used to call it hemp then and didn’t know its strength. It just used to make me sleepy, so I didn’t see the point.”
Schick, who uses a wheelchair after suffering a stroke, is interested in the therapeutic effects of cannabis. “It’s so different now. There are so many ways you can take it, and all these different types to help with aches and pains.
“They used to say it was a gateway drug to other things, like cocaine … Lots of people’s views are changing.”
Certainly, the number of people aged 65 or older taking cannabis in the US is growing. The proportion of this age group who reported cannabis use in the past year rose more than tenfold from 0.2% to 2.1% between 2002 and 2014, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. A Gallup poll last year showed that 3% of those over 65 smoke cannabis.
Much of this is attributed to the ageing of the baby-boomer generation, who dabbled with the drug when they were young and are returning to it for medical or recreational use as it becomes legal and more normalised. Cannabis is now legal for medical use in 29 states and for medical and recreational use in eight (since 2012 in Seattle and the rest of Washington state).
Most of the women on the tour were more interested in the medical use, although Denise Roux, 67, said: “I would like to buy it to get high too – but I’m a cheap high, it doesn’t take much.”
A seminar over sandwiches was held for the group as they sat in front of the large windows of the cultivation room, where they could see scores of plants growing under intense lighting.