Marijuana is increasingly becoming a viable treatment option for many diseases and ailments, including pain reduction, epilepsy and Crohn's. Many of these conditions affect seniors, but they may not be educated about the ways cannabis might help them.
Canadian medical marijuana advocate Steven Stairs gives educational talks on medical marijuana at senior's centres and assisted-living facilities in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He has learned there is an appetite among elderly residents to learn more about marijuana.
These speaking engagements kicked off after Stairs' recent candidacy for the Green Party in the riding of Kildonan-St. Paul. During a debate held at a senior's centre, Stairs spoke at length on the issue of medical marijuana.
"People were very receptive toward the idea," the 31-year-old tells Civilized. "I answered their questions as properly and professionally as I could."
"A couple of months later, the director of the centre called me and said they had more people who were interested in medical marijuana, and they wanted me to do a talk."
Stairs uses marijuana to treat his glaucoma
Stairs has credibility with his audiences, because he was a medical marijuana user himself.
"I'm a cannabis user, grower and advocate fighting for medical marijuana rights since 2009," says Stairs, who is legally blind and uses the plant to treat his glaucoma. "If I was just some guy who was smoking pot, it wouldn't have the same credibility as an eloquently-speaking, legitimately disabled person."
As part of his presentations, he provides seniors with literature on the types of cannabis, addiction, stigma, and the plant's medical uses.
How does the septuagenarian set react to all this? Very positively, according to Stairs.
"The majority were very positive and genuine - they actually want answers," says Stairs. "I had a few questions that were definitely from people who had a negative opinion of marijuana, but they asked respectful questions. I don't want to diminish anyone's personal struggles with addiction, but I also have to say just because one person has a substance problem, that doesn't mean everyone will have it. I compare it to coffee, or alcohol, and they get the rationale."
Seniors need to know how marijuana can help them
"Seniors are the most susceptible demographic of our population to disease and life threatening conditions," says Stairs, "so they need the medicine the most," he says.
He also says winning over the older population is key to fighting the myths surrounding medical marijuana.
"If the seniors come around to marijuana, it eliminates the generational cycle of stigma. If we, as a society and as a cannabis community, can reverse or eliminate the negative stereotypes through the generations, it'll start with the seniors. We learn from our elders. If we can stop them from having negative views, we can change society's opinion."