Put the joint down?

Ngaio Bealum is a Sacramento comedian, activist and marijuana expert. Email him questions at ask420@newsreview.com.

I have smoked weed all of my life. I am getting older (I’m almost 60), and I wonder: Should I quit?

I don’t know. Should you? Cannabis use is a personal decision. However, the elderly use cannabis all the time.

According to a study published in July by the University of Colorado, cannabis use by older folks has increased in the past decade. This is mostly because cannabis is more legal than ever, and also because seniors are using cannabis more as a medicine than as a party drug. It makes sense: Study after study shows that cannabis is great for aches and pains, good for insomnia and helps fight cancer.

In fact, a study published in Nature magazine in May 2017 said that giving old mice low doses of THC actually improved their cognitive function. I quote: “THC treatment restored hippocampal gene transcription patterns such that the expression profiles of THC-treated mice aged 12 months closely resembled those of THC-free animals aged 2 months.” How about that? Cannabis keeps your brain young. At least it does if you are a mouse. Humans are not mice, of course, but a brain is a brain, and an endocannabinoid system is an endocannabinoid system. I am not a doctor, but here is what I have to say if you are in good health and are still enjoying cannabis at an advanced age: Woohoo! Please keep in mind that moderation is important, and that there are more ways than ever to use cannabis. You don’t have to smoke it. You can eat it, absorb it sublingually through a tincture or even rub lotions and oils on your skin. Old stoners are always cute. Look at Tommy Chong.

Can you tell me more about terpenes and what-not?

Sure. While THC and CBD are probably the most well-known chemicals in the cannabis plant, terpenes (aromatic, non-cannabinoid chemicals found in some plants such as cannabis) are gaining attention for their uses and effects. Terpenes are what give cannabis strains their unique smells and flavors. Myrcene, pinene, limonene and beta-caryophyllene are the most well known, but there are plenty of others.

Terpenes don’t just make your weed taste good. For example, beta-caryophyllene has been shown to be an effective anti-inflammatory and could reduce the accumulation of the brain plaque that causes Alzheimer’s disease. Yes, that test was performed on mice, but the results are promising. Fortunately, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (part of the National Institutes of Health) recently announced three new studies about terpenes and cannabinoids. Well done! I hear they are even gonna take some tests on humans this time.