By Rick Pfrommer, Director of Education, Harborside Health Center
When California's Compassionate Use Act first took effect in 1996, the premier medical cannabis dispensaries-notably, Dennis Peron's in San Francisco and Jeffrey Jones' Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative-counted many seniors as core members. Long-timers may recognize the name, "Brownie Mary," a senior who tirelessly distributed her infamous cannabis brownies, often free of charge, to needy patients all over the Bay Area. Although Mary passed away in the early-2000s, she left a legacy of senior cannabis activism that's still felt today. However, as medical cannabis gained popularity in the late-1990s, new and younger patients began filling waiting rooms and many older people felt overwhelmed by the youth culture that dominates most dispensaries.
While the Berkeley Patients Group and the Patients Care Collective in Berkeley have provided a safe place for seniors for over a decade, it wasn't until Harborside Health Center opened in 2006 that there was a dispensary specifically designed to welcome seniors, as well as patients from all walks of life. The most common complaints I've heard from seniors is that some facilities are too dark, the music is played too loud and sales associates are stand-offish at best, and oftentimes downright rude. As anyone familiar with Harborside knows, we are the exact opposite. Our co-founder and executive director, Steve DeAngelo, personally selects all the music and our sales associates are trained to help not hinder.
CBD meds are a great way to introduce the efficacy of medical cannabis without the perceived drawbacks of overstimulation.
A couple years ago, Steve also came up with an idea for a service to engage with our community's elders, appointing Sue Taylor to be the coordinator of our Senior Outreach Program. Sue has many years' experience in the field of education and is a member of the Alameda County Advisory Commission on Aging. She speaks with other county aging commissions all around the Greater Bay Area, sometimes with me in tow. During these presentations we explain the benefits of medical cannabis to people who have little or no experience with it. It's a great feeling to watch a room full of skeptics begin to change their minds about a subject many of them had misjudged. I've very much enjoyed participating in these sessions, which are often truly eye-opening.
Hopefully the future will bring Harborside's medicine right to the doorsteps of senior facilities. Many of these folks can't physically get to a dispensary so the ability to bring medicine right to them would be great. Unfortunately most of these senior centers are federally funded, making them leery of allowing medical cannabis deliveries. But I firmly believe, just as we've changed the rules elsewhere, we will prevail here, too.
Medical cannabis obviously has many benefits for patients of all ages. For seniors especially, the list of ailments cannabis can help alleviate is almost endless. Many senior patients gravitate towards topical products, such as Doc Green's Therapeutic Healing Cream. Topicals provide relief for everything from soreness and pain, to inflammation and psoriasis. I've even managed to convince my rabidly anti-drug mother to try them! CBD medications, of which we now carry a wide range in topical and edible forms, are very effective and also quite popular for seniors. These preparations don't have the euphoric effects of THC, which some inexperienced users find unsettling. CBD meds are a great way to introduce the efficacy of medical cannabis without the perceived drawbacks of overstimulation. Senior or not, any patient who hasn't yet tried CBD-rich medicine, should.
Since our inception, every element at Harborside is created for the optimal patient experience--from our ambiance to the selection of medicine, the rigorous training our staff undergoes to our extensive array of free holistic services. If you know a senior who might benefit from medical cannabis, please bring them by and let us show them how we can help improve their well-being.
Check out Harborside Health Center, the world's largest medical cannabis dispensary, which serves as a model for others nationwide.