For people younger than 70 who haven’t been indoctrinated by the Church of All Drugs Are Bad, the truth by this point is clear: Smoking weed will not turn you into a criminal. It will also not make you lazy, unambitious, or unable to get out of your sweatpants. It will not make you listen to the Grateful Dead or Bob Marley on repeat—although, in rare cases, from some reason, it does lead people to hang tie-dyed tapestries on their bedroom walls. Despite what Nancy Reagan told us, weed is not nearly as dangerous as heroin or cocaine or alcohol or even tobacco. We might be stoned, but we ain’t stupid.
The one population still stuck in the 1930s when it comes to cannabis is, ironically, the very population that could most use it: old people. Back aching? Knees don’t work anymore? Grandkids never call? There are strains to relieve the pain of all of those things, and no one needs cannabis more than people whose primary occupation is waiting to die.
Weed is so beneficial for seniors that the National Council for Aging even came out with a guide for older users. Researchers have also found that cannabis helps alleviate an array of uncomfortable symptoms that go along with the diseases of aging—and I’m not just talking about glaucoma. In a 2014 study, for instance, researchers found that THC, the active compound in pot, helps slow the advancement of the sticky proteins that build up in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. Other studies have shown that pot helps relieve anxiety and depression, both things that are kind of common when you’re watching daytime TV in a nursing home and all of your friends have already died.
Some older folks get it. The earliest of the baby boomers are now in their early 70s. They went to Woodstock and protested the war in Vietnam, and they probably smoked tons of ditch weed that today we’d consider too shit to smoke. However, not everyone’s parents or grandparents were hippies, and it’s those folks who are going to take a little more prodding before they’re willing to try the devil’s lettuce.
So what’s the most effective way to open an old person’s mind to the benefits of weed? Lie to them.
Weed comes in so many forms right now that you could hand your grandpa a few mints for his knee, and he’d think aspirin came up with a new formulation. He doesn’t need to take bong rips or learn how to roll a blunt, which he probably can’t handle with his arthritis, anyway. If you’re worried about the psychosomatic effects, get him CBD tablets, which won’t fuck him up but could help with the aches and pains. Tell him it’s a new herbal medicine—which, really, it is.
The momentum is there: Already, seniors are the fastest growing population of cannabis users, according to a report published earlier this year in the New Yorker. And that includes squares and conservatives—like John Boehner, the Ohio Republican and former Speaker of the House. While in office, Boehner said he was “unalterably opposed” to cannabis legalization. Now he’s on the board of a pot company.
Hypocrisy aside, we should all be in favor of seeing bad opinions evolve into good ones, and with just a little encouragement, your parent or grandparent may evolve, too. Start them off slowly, let them develop a taste, and then, when Grandpa Joe starts requesting more mints, tell him what’s actually in them. They’ve lied plenty to us. It’s time to return the favor.