420 issue: Cannabis confidential

Seniors getting stoned

By Mary Jane Waterman

I’m keeping a marijuana diary. On select evenings, I spray a little cannabis mixture under my tongue and wait for nirvana to visit. Don’t call the narcs. I have a legal right to use medical Mary Jane.

Well it’s not quite like that. But at age 87 I have joined a coterie of seniors in Marin—mostly women—who have legal access to medical marijuana through a licensed doctor. She is Dr. Laurie Vollen, a general practitioner with offices in Albany, California, and founder of Naturally Healing MD. By appointment, she visited me at my apartment in Marin for an interview to discuss my insomnia and bursitis, and to determine if Medical Marijuana (MM) could help. A week later I had my little starter bottle mixture of CBD (2.6 mg, non-psychoactive) and THC (.6 mg, psychoactive) in a low-dose, four-to-one combo mixed with coconut oil. I couldn’t wait to join Senior Stoners.

That first night, ready for bed, mouth open, I pointed the arrow of the spray bottle mixture toward the little opening and—phooey! I couldn’t master the technique of the spray. So several anxious days later, 7 Stars, a licensed dispensary in Richmond, California, replaced it. (There are no legal licensed dispensaries in Marin.) Not so fast, though. Because of my difficulties with the spray technique I decided to consult with other MM Pioneers, as we were called, to get their results. Before that, though, I tried again, missed my mouth and sprayed over my right shoulder.

I wasn’t the only klutz who couldn’t get the applicator to work. Several women in our age category (60-90) had trouble getting the sublingual squirter to work. “I tried moving the applicator arrow around and it worked several times and then quit,” Martha said. “I don’t know if I should keep trying.” But it has eased the pain of neuropathy in her feet, she told me, and she wants to continue.

Abby, 79, had no trouble squirting the solution; it was very mild, and she found that it didn’t help her anxiety—so she moved up to a stronger, 8-to-1 solution. “I don’t use it for pain,” she told me. “I sometimes have anxiety about helping my partner, so I found medical marijuana calms me. I also use a flower-based anti-anxiety solution called Rescue Remedy.”

No one mentioned the munchies that one used to get smoking joints. That was in the ‘60s, when we were young enough to eat and not gain weight. Mercedes tried it for spinal stenosis and found at her age of 83 it wasn’t much help. Unable to have surgery on her back because of a heart condition, she found that she couldn’t control the dose until she tried the smokeless inhaler. “It works for insomnia,” she said. But her back pain continues.

Another friend with severe health issues—fibromyalgia, arthritis, back pain—was frustrated that her pain was not under control. Whereas she sometimes felt calm, she also felt that her mind wasn’t coherent. Now when pain reaches a level of 8 or 9, she uses her medical marijuana despite the mental side effects, and plans to not make any decisions for a few hours.

The one man in our pioneer group uses his 4-to-1 combination for pain and stress relief. With a terminal illness and memory failure, he has multiple issues that seem to be addressed—so far.  He has a supportive wife who uses a mild combination of ingredients to reduce stress.

Medical marijuana appears to work best for sleeplessness rather than pain, according to our Senior Stoners. “Also, I think it’s a mood stabilizer and the vaporizer is best,” said Gabby, who, at age 60, is the youngest of the group. “Drops don’t work for me.”

Medical Marijuana arrived at our retirement facility under the sobriquet of alternative pain management, a specialty of Vollen.

With multiple credentials, including an Master of Public Health, Vollen founded Naturally Healing MD because, she says, “There are many symptoms that can be safely and effectively alleviated through the use of marijuana. It is the most versatile natural remedy known today, with over 2000 years of usage treating a wide variety of symptoms.”

As Vollen—who has been working with marijuana patients for the past 16 years—recounts on her website (naturallyhealingmd.com), patients are looking for alternatives to painkillers, anti-depressants, sleeping pills and other prescription meds.

“I think marijuana is a social justice issue,” she said. “The medical community has been robbed of an opportunity to help patients with a variety of problems through the use of it; as the story of marijuana in America goes forward, I worry that it will go from illegal to a predominantly commercial enterprise, and marijuana will not become assimilated into the mainstream medical culture. Today most physicians are ignorant about marijuana and many continue to stigmatize it out of ignorance.

“Those facing major illness such as cancer, bowel disease or multiple sclerosis find marijuana a valuable resource to cope with the consequences of major disease,” she continues, noting that the other conditions that marijuana offers relief from are depression, ADD, mood disorders and chronic insomnia.

As stated in Vollen’s introductory guide for new users, “The key to using marijuana effectively is finding the right strain (there are about 500 different components in marijuana that have been identified), taking the right dose and using it at the correct frequency.” Starting doses and frequency depend on the symptoms.

Vollen will be returning to our facility next month to listen to the Stoners’ reactions to their first foray into alternative pain management. She charges $150 for a first-time private visit; the MM itself ranges from $50 to $100 for a two- to three-month supply, depending on method of use.

And yes, I finally got it together the Saturday before Easter. I slept well, and awoke fuzzy but happy. I’m trying it again. Meantime, back to my MM diary to log progress. To be continued after more results are in.

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