Smoking a joint with my mom is at the top of my life bucket list. I would love her to experience the transformation of the smoke experience: that moment of comfort where the power of the flower seems to settle upon you, into you, somehow soothing body, mind, soul. A cradle from Mother Universe.
She insists she’ll never do it: hates the smell, it hurts her throat. “Cannabis is not for me,” she declares.
And yet. Sunshower Gummies—a microdose of 1mg & 2mg THC in a crave-worthy gummy edible—have all but replaced her prescription pills to sleep. A few drops of a CBD:CBN tincture have become part of her evening wellness routine. A Solei Lavender salve sits beside her bed, soothing away pain from arthritis and muscle strain. Cannabis evidently has its hold on her.
As legalization took hold, the conversations that began to excite me most around the waves of change ended up being with people I knew over fifty: humans, gracefully experiencing those ailments of aging. “Have you tried cannabis?” seemed to become my most-used phrase.
This cohort—where polypharmacism is the norm, trust is placed in the doctor and their prescription pad and stress seems to be what’s fueling society—was clearly a segment of the population desperate for help for the cannabis plant. A return to natural order.
Helping teach our elders how to navigate through the weeds to find the wellness within cannabis suddenly became an important, if unexpected, side effect of my love for cannabis. It felt almost like a duty, to help bring what I was learning of the powerful benefits of the plant to the people who, perhaps, needed it the most.
And so was born ELDRFLOWER.com: an education platform for Aging in the Age of Cannabis. The mission: make cannabis more accessible for boomers and seniors—the fastest-growing segment of cannabis users in the population (up over 25% in the past year) and projected to keep growing. According to the WHO, the number of people over 60 is expected to double by 2050.
97% of older-aged cannabis users say that cannabis helps them feel better, while decreasing their reliance on prescription medication.
The older we get, the more likely we are to acquire an ailment or condition that’s amenable to cannabis. 55% of older adults report experiencing one or more chronic condition potentially treated by pot, including: arthritic pain & inflammation, neuropathic (nerve) pain, chronic pain, PTSD, insomnia, Parkinson’s Disease, chemotherapy-induced nausea, spasticity from MS or spinal cord injury and palliative/end of life pain. But many of these people are hesitant to go to their primary care physician with questions around plant wellness. Most report having not spoken to their doctors at all about the potential benefits cannabis could add to their routines, despite a majority reporting being curious to learn more. Even my own father, a longtime sufferer of Parkinson’s Disease has shyly posed the question once or twice at my insistence, only to be recommended by two different doctors to not interfere with his medication protocol.
Indeed, Reefer Madness may have been the most successful marketing campaign of all time: the unlearning required from anti-pot-propaganda still being methodically unravelled. Platforms like ELDRFLOWER that can spark intergenerational conversations and help aid deeper understanding are what begins to shift perception, and ultimately stigma. With plans to establish a network of educators across North America bringing ELDRFLOWER’s learning to their own communities, cannabis champions of all ages are beginning to join the movement.
Mandy Harlan is one of these champions. Harlan, a Florida-based cannabis enthusiast and CBD educator, established a Cannabis Club with her mom at The Villages—the largest retirement community in the state. Now working full-time in the state’s medical cannabis industry and helping usher in recreational legalization, Harlan was formerly anti-cannabis, until she began exploring the plant as an alternative to alcohol as a result of her Crohn's disease. Quickly realizing the plant was about much more than recreation, she experienced the healing properties of the plant first-hand. Her condition is now in remission.
At first, she hid her cannabis use from her parents, assuming an old-school mentality toward Miss Mary Jane. But then her parents (both in their 80’s) began witnessing proof positive in her Crohn's remission; once Mandy’s work turned to education around CBD, the respect for the plant became enough for them to take up Mandy’s cannabis movement.
I was thrilled to start bringing Cannabis 101 education to our peers.
“Mandy and I started the Medical Marijuana Club of The Villages, one of the largest retirement communities in Florida,” Mandy’s mom Dorothy tells me proudly. “As I started to use cannabis medicinally, I found a lack of information in the senior community with no place to turn, so I was thrilled to start bringing Cannabis 101 education to our peers. While we don’t consume together often, working with my daughter on this mission has helped break a lot of personal stigmas in my community, and that is priceless.”
Shawn King, head of marketing at PAX Labs, experienced a similar sequence of realizations around cannabis benefits, first for himself and then with Bill, his father, a military veteran experiencing ongoing pain, insomnia and PTSD.
“In 2017, pre-legalization, I was having impactful and enlightened conversations while taping our podcast Turning a New Leaf, and I met a cancer patient, treating with cannabis,” says King. “A former NFL’er who’d used cannabis to get off opioids. He began to shift even my own ideas about what ‘consuming cannabis’ with openness really meant. The stories proved that with holistic, intentional use this plant is truly a medicine.”
The realizations inspired Shawn to suggest cannabis to his dad, who was using prescription medication in an attempt to help with sleep and chronic pain. But despite Shawn’s creative and professional proclivity for vaporizing flower, Bill wasn’t interested in cannabis—or in getting high.
He said: “I haven’t slept this well in 25 years!”
The duo paid a visit to a clinic in Halifax for veterans who help guide patients through the process of being prescribed medicinal cannabis. Through education, conversation and exploration, Bill was able to discover the product and dosing protocol that worked best for him: a combination of 1:1 capsules and an oil/tincture with high-CBD and increasingly high-THC (sometimes necessary to treat true pain).
Three months later, Bill’s chronic pain and inflammation had subsided and his temperament and patience had improved. He said: “I haven’t slept this well in 25 years!”
Still, certain biases remained. Shawn’s not only son, but also a father, and this made him realize that he held his own judgments on weed. When his son began asking questions about cannabis, Shawn flinched. “I didn’t love the idea at first, as a parent, of my kid consuming,” he admits, and this is someone who works in weed, “but after much open dialogue, lots of questions, and ongoing information-based conversations, I feel confident he’s going to be equipped to use cannabis intentionally.”
Eventually, Shawn shared a moment with his son. It came about casually; nothing planned or overdone, just a sincere loving stoner scene. Standing in a circle one evening, Shawn’s son lit a joint, took two puffs and passed it to his dad.
The impact of the full-circle moment struck him: he took the joint as his son and his friends cheered. Stigma had been the barrier to healing for too long. And it would get better, because Shawn’s dad Bill also was there. Sure, the family patron took two hits, declared he’d never been thirstier, went inside and never came back. But cannabis was out in the open for their family, and it’s a scene that will be replicated in homes all over the country and, indeed, eventually, all over the world.
Perhaps that’s all it really takes: an open dialogue, a willingness to ask and answer questions, a judgement-free zone. And if all else fails, just pass the Dutchie to the left. Especially if it’s to your mom or dad.