Medical Marijuana and the Elderly Patient

Medical Marijuana is of interest to readers of the Reverse Parenting Blog because it can be used to treat a number of conditions that plague the elderly, and can be used to reduce the total number of medications they are dependent upon.


Marijuana (also pot, grass, weed, ganja) are the common names for the Cannabis plant, which has been used as a medicine for thousands of years. In fact, it was commonly used in liquid form as a treatment by physicians in America until the 1920s. Around the time of the Prohibition, marijuana was made illegal in the United States, and it has been stigmatized since as a drug of abuse.


The prohibition of marijuana was unfortunate for a number reasons. First, because cannabis has a number of beneficial therapeutic properties which are being re-discovered by physicians. Second, because American Medicine has missed the opportunity to study this plant  (because the research was basically illegal) and develop effective medications based on it.  Fortunately, other countries have conducted research (primarily in Israel), and we are beginning to catch up. The effectiveness of cannabis has been well enough established that almost half of the states in the USA have started laws that allow the use of cannabis for specific medical conditions. While the Federal Government still considers cannabis an illegal drug of abuse, it is not prosecuting individual users or physicians who certify patients.


There are over 450 chemicals in cannabis, but the two primary ones are Tetrahydracannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). These two chemicals binds to special receptors in our bodies that manage memory, movement, cognition (thinking), mood, pain, appetite and nausea. Used at normal dosages, cannabis does not cause hallucinations, and there is no lethal dose.

While cannabis may be mentally addictive, there’s no evidence of physical addictive properties. As with alcohol or any medication, cannabis can be used inappropriately, however that does not erase its potential beneficial therapeutic effect at controlled doses.


Here are answers to some common questions I am asked:

  • If marijuana is so wonderful, why not just buy it from a dealer?

The answer is a question of quality and reliability. It is legal to buy alcoholic beverages at a designated store, but it is very risky to buy it from a stranger on the street, because if it is not pure it can make you very very ill. The same is true of cannabis.


  • Why bother with a “medical marijuana” designation, especially since it is more expensive than buying it from a dealer?

Again, it is a question of quality, reliability, and also dosage.  The cannabis plant, as a result of decades of cross breeding now comes in thousands of varieties, all of which have different concentrations of THC and CBD. The only way to know the concentration of these active ingredients is to process the plant, measure the THC and CBD, extract them, purify them, and then dispense them in a stable form.  Medical marijuana is tightly regulated by state laws, so that these procedures are followed. The result is products that are safe, clean, consistent, and which deliver consistent doses and effects.

Cannabis that is sold on the street or even in a legal marijuana store in plant form is highly variable. The amount of THC and CBD in a plant can vary according to the soil, temperature, season, time of harvest, storage, and many other factors. Also, the people who work in these facilities aren’t medically trained and cannot be relied upon to understand what the effect will be of their products on elderly patients.


  • What can Medical Cannabis/Medical Marijuana be used for?

-Most states authorize Medical Marijuana/Cannabis to treat:

-Chronic Pain—fibromyalgia, neuropathy, phantom limb, arthritis, trigeminal neuralgia, other

-Movement disorders—Parkinsons disease, Lou Gehrig’s Disease, Huntington’s Chorea, Multiple Sclerosis, Epilepsy

-Inflammatory digestive diseases: Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative colitis

-Nausea and lack of appetite





  • How do we get Medical Marijuana/Cannabis?

Each state differs, but generally you need to find a physician or Nurse Practitioner who is able to certify the patient. Note that the physician/NP does not prescribe medical marijuana, instead we certify to the state that the patient has a medical condition that is authorized by the particular state. Once the state receives that certification certificate signed by the physician/NP, the state issues a card authorizing the patient (or designated caregiver) to purchase the medical marijuana/Cannabis from a certified dispensary.


  • What forms does it come in? There is no way my mom would smoke it.

Medical Marijuana/Cannabis comes in many forms, and most states don’t even allow smoking, so that’s not an issue. It is generally dispensed as an oil in mouth drops, capsules, candies, powders, or in a vape pen. We recommend that you consult the pharmacist at the dispensary about which form is most appropriate for your parent.


  • Why not just use CBD oil?

CBD oil products that are purchased on-line cannot be validated as being pure, clean, or even as having any CBD in them at all. Furthermore, CBD appears to work best when it is consumed with THC rather than by itself.


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