Medical Marijuana and Seniors

Since the passage of Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, medical marijuana has been used in California by hundreds of thousands of patients. Many of these patients have chronic debilitating diseases, such as cancer or chronic pain, but the conditions that marijuana has been recommended for are drawn from a much larger list. These include such common complaints as Insomnia, Hypertension, Headaches, Arthritis, Depression or Anxiety. In addition, many autoimmuine diseases, such as Multiple Sclerosis and Rheumatoid Arthritis also benefit from marijuana. Of interest especially to seniors is the value of marijuana in treating neurological degenerative diseases such as Diabetic or Peripheral Neuropathy, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and mood disorders.


A national Gallup poll released in November 2005 found that 78% of Americans support “making marijuana legally available for doctors to prescribe in order to reduce pain and suffering.” The excerpts given below address the issue of Senior’s current attitudes toward medical marijuana, and resources for more information on this emerging health alternative.


1) Marijuana and the Elderly

By Jeralyn, Section Crime Policy
Posted on Wed Apr 27, 2005

“No one knows exactly how many old folks use cannabis to address their ills, but activists and physicians say they probably number in the thousands. And unlike medical marijuana’s younger and more militant true believers, the elderly are difficult for doubters to castigate as stoners. Their pains are unassailable. Their needs for relief are real. Most never touched pot before.”

2) Medical Marijuana for Seniors

Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is the largest national member-based organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research. The ASA’s Senior Union works with Americans for Safe Access to distribute important research information to medical professionals, work with other senior organizations to support patients’ right to cannabis in lieu of failed alternatives, and advocate for safe and legal access to cannabis for all seniors who need it. The Senior Union is open to seniors who use medical cannabis, caregivers, family members, researchers, physicians, and other health providers who support the use of medical cannabis.


3) Newsbrief: Senior Citizens Support Medical Marijuana, AARP Poll Finds


Nearly three out of four older Americans support legalizing the medicinal use of marijuana, a poll conducted for the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) has found. The poll, conducted in mid-November for the nation’s largest group representing senior citizens, surveyed 1,706 people aged 45 or older.

Overall, 72% of respondents agreed that “adults should be allowed to legally use marijuana for medical purposes if a physician recommends it.” Support was highest in the West (82%) and Northeast (79%) and lowest in the Midwest (67%) and Southwest (65%). In the South, 70% agreed with the statement.

The poll asked if respondents thought marijuana had medical uses, and oddly enough, many seniors who said they didn’t think it had medical uses supported it anyway. Less than half of those over 70 agreed marijuana had medical benefits, but 69% of that group wanted it legalized for medical purposes. Younger respondents were more likely to think marijuana has medical benefits, with some 70% of 45-49-year-olds agreeing that it does.

Personal use histories and attitudes toward marijuana’s addictiveness were also age-related, the poll suggested. Among those over 70, only 8% had smoked pot, compared with 58% of the forty-somethings, 37% of the fifty-somethings, and 15% of the sixty-somethings. Similarly, the older respondents were, the more likely they were to believe that marijuana is addictive. While overall, 74% thought the weed could enslave you, that number was 83% among those over 70 and only 61% among the forty-somethings.

“The use of medical marijuana applies to many older Americans who may benefit from cannabis,” said AARP magazine editor Ed Dwyer in a press statement.


Commentary – Dr. Malka

As a medical physician having treated thousands of patients young and old with medical marijuana, I can attest to the efficacy of this strong herbal medicine for multiple ailments, many of which occur in the older population. What is so valuable is that often patients can dispense with one or more of their pharmaceutical medicines, or reduce their use significantly with  cannnabis. For so many seniors, the complications of polypharmacy (multiple prescription medications) can be alleviated with such a reduction. I hope to see more people benefiting from the use of this relatively non-toxic medicine in the years to come.