The Elderly Stands to Gain A Lot from Canada’s Marijuana Legalization

Senior Marijuana

With the passing of Bill C-45, otherwise known as the Cannabis Act, Canada is now the second country in the world to legalize marijuana, after Uruguay. Adults can buy BC bud and publicly carry up to 30 grams of legal marijuana. They can also keep up to four plants in their households for personal use.

The main impetus is Justin Trudeau’s goal to keep marijuana away from underage users and put a stop to drug-related crimes. But by legalizing marijuana, the government also opened doors for its medical uses and gave patients a chance for new treatment methods.

elderly man

Marijuana for the Elderly

Canada’s elderly population stands to benefit much medically from the legalization. After all, countless medical professionals have researched and advocated cannabis’ medical benefits. And the older adults who use it bear testimony to its potency.

The Globe and Mail reports that seniors across the country have been using cannabis-rich oils and capsules. This group of consumers, who are now in their 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s, turn to marijuana when pharmaceutical drugs fail to deliver the promised relief. In 2013, in fact, Health Canada reported that two-thirds of medical marijuana consumers used the product to treat severe arthritis.

Why else are the elderly turning to marijuana? Let’s look at the advantages that marijuana offers an aging body.

Declining Cognitive Function

As one ages, one’s cognitive function declines, affecting a person’s life dramatically. The good news is that there’s evidence that marijuana can keep brain aging at bay.

A study published in the journal Nature Medicine studied the brain activity of mice that were given doses of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — marijuana’s main active ingredient. The old mice performed better in memory and learning tests than mice in other age groups.

Researchers also found that the neurons in their hippocampi (the brain area responsible for learning and memory) contained more synaptic spines compared to other areas. These are points of communication between neurons, allowing the greater flow of information within the brain and better cognitive function.

The authors also offer an alternative explanation. Humans produce marijuana-like molecules, called the endogenous cannabinoid system, which helps activate neural activity. As people grow older, the system declines, and signs of brain aging appear.

External cannabinoids might stimulate this system, says Andreas Zimmer of the University of Bonn in Germany, one of the study’s authors. The study concludes that low-dose treatments of THC or cannabis extracts can slow down cognitive decline among the elderly.

Every Day Life

While medical marijuana isn’t a confirmed cure for chronic diseases, patients take them to alleviate symptoms.

A 2018 study published in the European Journal of Internal Medicine surveyed more than two thousand people older than 65 years about the effects of medical marijuana. After six months of treatment, 93.7% reported that their condition improved. The average pain level, in fact, dropped from a median of 8 (in a scale of 1-10) to 4.

Researchers concluded that medical marijuana is a safe and effective treatment for the elderly. They also noted that cannabis could decrease the use of prescription medicines. And separate research supports this. A 2016 study published in the journal Health Affairs found that doctors provided fewer prescriptions for elderly and disabled patients who had legal access to marijuana.

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