Seshes between generations: how to have fun blazing with family

Senior looks at cannabis buds

Cannabis has gotten far more potent since the early days of American pot. Someone who puffed tough in the ‘70s might not be able to smoke today’s weed at the same volume they used to.

As a budtender in medical and adult-use markets, I helped a lot of seniors who were trying cannabis again for the first time in fifty years. Many openly disregarded my warnings of potency and recommendations to start slow, telling me they were big stoners in their youth.

Not all of them returned to my counter, but the majority of those that did admit they should have followed my advice. Many ended up way too high and had a bad time.

A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society supports my experience. Their research shows seniors in California were visiting the emergency room for cannabis overconsumption 808 percent more in 2019 as compared to 2005.

Getting too high on an edible or any cannabis product is uncomfortable and can lead to panic attacks, paranoia, and anxiety. If that experience can be avoided, it should be—, especially when we’re smoking out our elders. There are good and bad ways to be reintroduced to cannabis for the first time or after decades of abstinence.

The study called for more cannabis education for seniors, and many of them could be learning from their grandchildren. But these grandchildren or neighbors or home nurses sharing cannabis with seniors should be mindful of how they guide the experience.

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A colleague was reminded of when she hooked her mom up with a vape pen. She wanted to reduce the cannabis odors after consuming and wanted to try something new. They spent time explaining the special Morse code to turn it on and change the settings and went on her way.

The next day, her mom called to say the pen wasn’t working. When the daughter asked what she was doing when mom started it, she replied that she kept lighting the end and nothing was happening. Aghast, and thankful she didn’t explode the battery in her face, my colleague asked why she would apply fire to it. Her response was that she’s old school.

Education is the cornerstone of success when trying cannabis for the first time, especially if you’re old school. Learning about the products and doses is also essential to have a good experience after consuming.

Educating elders on cannabis consumption

While I haven’t been blessed to fire up a vape with any of my grandparents, I’ve talked to plenty of people who have. So I reached out to them for tips to understand how to successfully share weed intergenerationally.

Ash Pavesio, founder of A Little Ash, has been enjoying cannabis with her grandpa regularly over the last year or so. But he was no beginner: he was cultivating his own in his 20s. Pavesio’s grandma, on the other hand, is a more novice consumer.

Her grandmother prefers a balanced experience and eats low-dose edibles with a full spectrum of cannabinoids. In her family, meeting her elders where they’re at built a foundation to enjoy the plant together.

“For my grandpa, it’s rolling up a joint and expecting the jokes about how much better weed was back in the day, and with my grandma, it’s talking through basics like ‘what is a cannabinoid?’ or ‘what is the difference between THC and CBD?’,” Pavesio said.

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Fox Sterner has smoked with her whole family. The whole family gets giggly when they’re stoned. So when they sesh, they keep things light. They noted that their Grandma gets a microdose or she feels anxious. Sterner also believes the key to successful intergenerational seshing is meeting people where they’re at and letting them get comfortable.

“I think encouraging autonomy helps, and like, we just sit around and let everyone do whatever they want to, talk, eat. It’s just sort of normal and relaxed,” Sterner explained.

Tips for seshing with seniors

What seems like a simple thing, letting people exist, doesn’t always feel so simple for someone who is very high. When it’s someone’s first time-consuming modern, loud, adult-use cannabis–make it clear that it’s a safe space. Don’t scoff; safe spaces are good. Creating a good environment means thinking ahead of their needs. Have water and snacks readily available so they don’t need to ask.

For the mental aspect of the experience, consider checking in with the person on the other side of the joint if they get too quiet. Though legalization continues to sweep the nation, the stigma attached to cannabis consumption remains. Seniors trying cannabis for the first time were subjected to Reefer Madness propaganda for decades. Being overly high could provoke shame and trauma associated with the plant’s history.

This became clear to Pavesio during a recent sesh with her grandpa, “He asked me ‘Do you get ashamed of me when we do this together?’. That possibility hadn’t even crossed my mind. There is a lot of very real shame, stigma, and trauma that comes with cannabis–especially for our elders and for our Latino community.”

One of the best ways to keep someone out of their head is to mind their dose. All of this advice really culminates to that point. When being reintroduced to the plant after many years, respect the potency. The recommended starting dose for edibles is 2 mg. For inhalation methods, it’s less precise.

But despite the consumption method, follow the common phrase: start low and go slow. You can always have more but can’t take it back if you go too big.

Cara Wietstock is Senior Content Producer of and has been working in the cannabis space since 2011. She has covered the cannabis business beat for Ganjapreneur and The Spokesman Review. You can find her living in Bellingham, Washington with her husband, son, and a small zoo of pets.