Before Cherie Scott goes to sleep every night, the 86-year-old has a sweet bedtime snack: a marijuana cookie.
“I thought the whole system, it was evil and addictive and you were a little cuckoo with it,” the Burnaby senior told The Province.
But when she found herself in a dire situation, unable to sleep after her husband died of lung cancer in 1980, Scott said she was desperate for relief. Fearing she would become addicted to sleeping pills, Scott’s son suggested she try marijuana.
Mitch D’Kugener, who has a doctor’s prescription, smoked pot to alleviate symptoms of his attention deficit disorder and arthritis pain, and he thought it might also help his mom.
“Now she’s having the best sleep that she’s had in the last 30 years,” he said. “Her quality of life has improved.”
Scott is part of a growing trend of seniors starting to use medical marijuana to find relief from illnesses that are often age-related, such as arthritis and dementia. Many are unlikely to try marijuana on their own, but are introduced to the idea by their children or younger relatives.
“A lot of it is the older generation is just less aware,” said Dana Larsen, director of the Vancouver Dispensary Society. “A lot of the medical benefits of cannabis have really just been explored in the last few years, and the information is just getting out there.”
As most marijuana research has looked at people who smoke the drug for recreational reasons, scientific evidence on the medical benefits is sparse. But research has found marijuana can be helpful in treating nausea in chemotherapy patients as well as nerve pain, and may stimulate appetite in people with AIDS, according to a 1999 review from the Institute of Medicine, a prestigious U.S. health advisory group.
Larsen, a longtime pot-legalization activist who founded the B.C. Marijuana Party, said some seniors who visit the dispensary tried marijuana in their youth, but many are first-time users.
According to Larsen, marijuana seems to help seniors in a way that pharmaceutical drugs don’t. Some even stop taking medication previously prescribed to them once they try the substance, he said.
“A lot of what we do is teaching people how to use it properly and how to consume it in the right way,” Larsen said.
Read More: Patients for Medical Cannabis