Cannabis Advice: How to help aging relatives explore alternative remedies

cannabis advice

GreenState Ombudsman Ngaio Bealum. Photo: Russel Yip

An ombudsman is defined as “a person who investigates and attempts to resolve complaints and problems.”

We figure cannabis could use such a problem solver, and The Ombudsman is Green State’s advice and etiquette column. It’s written by Ngaio Bealum, who edited the West Coast Cannabis newspaper and is arguably the No. 2 weed comedian in America, behind Doug Benson. Bealum is a Sacramento-area father, a go-to host for cannabis events and a veteran world traveler. All of which make him a keen observer of human behavior and a reliable ambassador for grass.

In this installment, Bealum tackles two common questions about senior access to cannabis.

Question: My grandmother is aging, and she has the usual aches and pains. I think cannabis may help her feel better, but I don’t know how to bring it up. Any tips?


Answer: Um, just talk to her about it? Maybe mention you saw some stories in the newspaper about older folks using cannabis and ask for her opinion. You could try a little peer pressure: “Come on, Grandma, all the cool old people are smoking weed!” Kidding, but cannabis use among seniors is on the rise.

Cannabis can be used for a variety of ailments common with advancing age: arthritis, insomnia and decreased appetite are a few. You may meet resistance, and patient advocacy group Americans for Safe Access has a great online resource ( booklet that can help you talk about the science of cannabis.

My dad (clean and sober for more than 30 years, and a very stubborn man) was recently diagnosed with cancer but didn’t want to try cannabis. After a little while and a great deal of discussion, he decided to give it a chance. It turns out that medicated gummy bears greatly improved his appetite, and smoking a little bud before bedtime helped him rest. Maybe you can find another older person who uses cannabis to offer some peer-to-peer counseling about marijuana. Be patient, and don’t be a bully.

If she does decide to try cannabis, make sure she talks to her doctor about it. After that, it should be fairly simple to get a few samples and encourage her to give pot a chance. Start with salves and creams and see if it helps with the aches and pains. Drop off a few low-THC (you don’t want her to get crazy high on her first day), high-CBD edibles and see if they help her. If she tries it but doesn’t like it and decides to stop, that’s cool, too. Cannabis use isn’t for everyone.

We are just beginning to discover all of the medical uses of the cannabis plant. Who knows, maybe we will find something in cannabis that is akin to the fountain of youth. After all, old stoners are way cuter than old drunks.


Question: My 70-year-old uncle is going through chemotherapy. He and his son recently asked me to get him some pot. I don’t smoke pot anymore, and I don’t want to buy pot for other people or get a doctor’s scrip. But I feel compelled to help them out.

Answer: Good luck to your uncle. Chemotherapy sucks. He is going to need all of the help and support you can give him. You get props for being willing to help.Would you be just as uncomfortable if your uncle had asked you to go to the pharmacy and pick up his pills? It’s exactly the same thing. Marijuana is a medicine for many people. Check out the documentary “Clearing the Smoke: The Science of Cannabis” (you can watch it for free online).

Now that we have that cleared up, here is what you do: After you take your uncle to the doctor to get his letter of recommendation, you take him to a local dispensary. While he signs up as a patient, you sign up as his primary caregiver. That will allow you to purchase (you are going to have to get over your discomfort — this is your family we are talking about) and carry marijuana legally without having to sign up as a cannabis patient yourself. I have a feeling that once you see how cannabis helps people, your attitude will change.


[Got a question for Green State’s “The Ombudsman”? Email it to Cannabis Editor David Downs at]