Cannabis can help with aging

Ngaio Bealum is a Sacramento comedian, activist and marijuana expert. Email him questions at

Hello. I am getting old, and I find that my doctor wants to give me a bunch of pills and stuff to help with the aches and pains. I’m not a hippie, but I feel weird popping several pills a day. Could weed be an effective medication?

—Trip L. O’Gee

Er, yeah. I mean, weed won’t make your kidneys work better, but it can be an effective medicine for a number of conditions associated with the aging process. I am not a doctor, so if you do decide to try cannabis, please let your doctor know your plans and goals.

And by the way: Good for you for wanting to try natural remedies. Old people are rediscovering pot. While the stereotype of the lovable old stoner hippie is the one that most readily comes to mind, many “mainstream” senior citizens are beginning to take advantage of the medical (and social) benefits of cannabis. Cannabis use by people over the age of 55 has grown exponentially over the past five years (455 percent, to be exact), according to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Weed can help with arthritis for sure. And you don’t even have to smoke it. Many people use cannabis-infused lotions and creams to manage their symptoms. These creams don’t have any psychoactive effects, but because marijuana is a natural anti-inflammatory, they are great for relieving swelling and pain. CBD has been shown to help the immune system (rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune system disorder) and THC’s anti-inflammatory properties can help with swelling.

Cannabis is also good for diabetic neuropathy (nerve pain), according to a 2015 study in the Journal of Pain. The study’s lead author Dr. Mark Steve Wallace, chair of the Division of Pain Management at the University of California, San Diego, explains that “diabetic peripheral neuropathy is one of the most common neuropathic pain syndromes in our society.”

Because there are few treatment options that don’t have dose-limiting side effects, Wallace notes that he often recommends medical marijuana.

And if you are having trouble getting to sleep, cannabis can help. Everyone knows that a good indica will knock you the eff out. Many older folks like a small dose of cannabis (either a puff or an edible) just before bedtime. Talk to your doctor, start with low doses and see how you feel. Good luck, and I hope you feel better.

What is a good-sized dose for edibles?

­—Les Eatwell

There are a variety of factors, depending on weight, tolerance levels, metabolism, yadda yadda. A good rule of thumb is about 10 milligrams of THC per 100 pounds body weight. The best way to find your level is to ingest 10 milligrams or so and wait a few hours to see how you feel. You can always eat more, but you can’t un-eat THC, if you know what I mean. Be careful. Have fun.