Older Americans are becoming more visible in the battle over the legality of medical marijuana, the Los Angeles Times reported May 8.
Word of mouth has led more elderly patients to try marijuana to relieve pain and treat other ailments. But activists also realize that older patients help cast the medical-marijuana issue in a more positive light.
Seattle resident Betty Hiatt, 81, has battled cancer, Parkinson's disease, and Crohn's disease, and uses marijuana along with a plethora of prescription medications. “It's like any other medicine for me,” Hiatt said. “But I don't know that I'd be alive without it.”
Medical-marijuana activists say there are thousands of other elderly people using the drug. As the U.S. Supreme Court weighs the legality of states' medical-marijuana laws, older users are becoming important political symbols because they don't fit the stereotype of the typical pot smoker.
In a recent poll conducted by the American Association of Retired People, 72 percent of those ages 45 and older supported the legal use of medical marijuana. The drug is thought to help patients with conditions ranging from multiple sclerosis to glaucoma, arthritis, Parkinson's, and Alzheimer's disease.
“There's this sense that when you get old enough, you've earned the right to live your own life,” said Ethan Nadelmann, director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “The mantra of the drug war has been to protect our kids. But the notion of a drug war to protect the elderly? That's ludicrous.”
Several drug companies are working on new prescription medicines derived from marijuana. But researchers like Raphael Mechoulam of Hebrew University in Jerusalem said that in the meantime, elderly patients should not be barred from using raw marijuana to ease their symptoms.