A return to pot?

Here it comes, or if you live in my large city, it just passed by on the street. I cannot walk down St-Laurent without a solid weed sillage, and not just from young ones.

I'll get my pot politics out of the way: I'm in favour of legalization, given the government's still-to-be specified oversight.

My first job in Canada, in 1971, was with a government agency which researched and treated addiction; we closely followed the four successive reports of the Le Dain Commission, a federal government-mandated inquiry into the non-medical use of drugs. 

In late '72, I heard the summation, delivered at a staff conference, by Commission member Dr. Ralph Miller: after extensive study and debate, they recommended to either decriminalize or legalize (the members were split) adults' use of marijuana. That idea has taken 45 years to achieve political traction. (A 2013 interview with Dr. Miller in which he tells anecdotes about the four years of the Commission is here.)

I'm eager to see what happens in my age cohort when legal pot hits town, probably by mid-2018. My friends range from my-body-is-my-temple types who will not ingest caffeine, let alone pot, to those who have toked daily for almost 50 years.

A 2016 SFGate article reports that, according to a CBS News finding, the fastest-growing demographic for pot use in the US is persons over 55. Increasingly, they turn to cannabis for  medicinal properties: for pain associated with arthritis, fibromyalgia, and sciatica; to decrease the muscle spasms of multiple sclerosis; to mitigate nausea brought on by chemo. (Current Canadian law permits medical use for registered legal patients.)

And there are other benefits. Paula says she feels more relaxed and confident in bed: "I leave the lights on, all the lights on."

In university,  I was the share-joint-at-party type, but after graduation, dropped pot because I'd never liked to smoke anything, and my then-husband was struggling with kicking cigarettes. (Tobacco, it turns out, is the physically-addicting smoke.) But it's hardly like I haven't been around it.

Six years ago, after decades of abstinence, I ate a homemade pot cookie given as a birthday present and had an adverse reaction. When I posted that, a commenter asked if "it was really necessary" to share the experience.

It was, Anonymous. Edibles—from jerky to pralines—will not be available to Canadians until the products can be approved, so those interested may make their own. The potency will vary—so my encounter might be instructive.

Whether edibles are sold at a dispensary (or whatever we're getting) or not, those unused to THC should proceed cautiously, especially if you are already taking medication. Cannabis is biologically complex; reactions vary depending on strain, route of ingestion and the user's mind set.  I was unprepared to the tsunami of anxiety and paranoia that little cookie delivered.

After the incident, I thought, So much for that! But now, my post-50 friends have aches and pains; many are curious, or already know that cannabis products work for them. Ought I re-up?

When I was in Oregon last month, I was startled to see a huge NEED WEED? billboard near my hotel, and wanted to know more.

Several family members demurred, but Jennie, a retired public administrator, would talk. When Oregon passed the amendment in late 2016, Jennie, who was over 65, checked out the local dispensary. On an early foray, she bought a packet of squibs: gummies infused with THC.

She drove to her downtown bridge club, parked, chewed a portion of a squib (following package directions), and joined her fellow players for lunch. About 45 minutes into her first game she realized that she felt different: "The low back pain I always get from sitting so long was gone."

"So, how was your game?" I asked her.

"Average", she said, "but after, at four o'clock, I walked over to the House of Pancakes and ate a short stack with scrambled eggs, and a sundae!"

"Did you drive?" I asked her. "Didn't think I should", she said, "I called Paul (her son) and asked him to drive me home. Takes an hour for him to get there, so I ordered the Bananas Foster French toast."

I figure we have a self-regulatory mechanism, because not many women past 50 are willing to onboard the caloric load of an Olympic shot-putter all that often.

Jennie has learned the difference between the two primary active phytochemical ingredients (THC and CBD).

She does not smoke. Besides the edibles, she sometimes uses a transdermal patch, which has allowed her to go off the super-iboprophen that upset her stomach. She has learned how she responds to various products; new ones appear on the Oregon market nearly monthly. Her local store gives good advice.

"So, you choose the ones that help your back but don't make you 'happy'?" I asked. Jennie laughed an "oh, child" laugh and said, "Little bit of both, sometimes."

I have an image of the Book Club making a foray to the pot shop, the helpful young associate helping the grandmother decide whether to try Glass Slipper or Bubble Gum; I'm sure the day the doors open, a novice my age will post her iPhone video.

I might tag along, and admit I'm not curious solely for medical reasons. There is also the effect that witnesses for the 1969–1972 inquiry mentioned, and which the Commission reported in one succinct and very Canadian paragraph:

"A major factor appears to be the simple pleasure of the experience. Time after time, witnesses have said to us in effect: We do it for fun. Do not try to find a complicated explanation for it. We do it for pleasure." 6

Sounds almost like chocolate.


Janice Riggs said…
I'm in favor! I have fibromyalgia, and anything that originates in nature that might help my pain and insomnia would be welcome. For those who do not wish to partake, they can certainly abstain, but for those of us who might be helped by it, I say bring it on!

Annie said…
Personally I’m not a fan of pot since it makes me feel awful. Not paranoid but just a bad high for me compared to alcohol. But I am in favor of legalization as prohibition has been a disaster. I just hope people will be considerate of others who don’t want to be smoked around.
Unknown said…
Hello! I am one of your silent readers from the USA, Texas to be exact. I read your post and started laughing which also caught my husband's attention. He is 65 and retired and when I shared your post about your friend and her gummie bear candies, he replied he remembered the hunger cravings after smoking pot back in the late 60's, early 70's. He said he's not surprised to hear that, further explaining how he and his friends liked to pig out on 2 buckets of Kentucky Fried chicken, down to the bones! Afterwards, they would hit whatever taco stand was open ordering all the available barbeque. Guess some things never change! Oh,by the way, my husband is in favor of legalization especially for medical purposes. Me, don't know since I've never smoked pot but as a pain reliever I'm all for it.
materfamilias said…
Such a good topic to open -- I must say, as a Boomer who never felt the need (and perhaps just had control/trust issues!) to try even a puff when young, I discovered some good reasons in favour when curiosity in my mid 40s prompted some experimentation with a son's confiscated supply (I know! Bad parent! -- and no worries, I've long since 'fessed up to the boy). We found that the enhanced pleasure the weed gives to food it also confers to other physical activity, and that has been reason enough to risk the paranoia/anxiety it sometimes brings on. It's been very occasional (i.e. 2 or 3 times a year, max) over the last 15 or so years, dwindling to almost never lately. But that might well change with the aches and pains of ageing, a decreased tolerance for what alcohol can do to a good night's sleep, easier (legal, non-embarrassing, etc.) access. . . .
And I really hope the self-righteous, narrow-minded prejudice against cannabis use, such as that manifested by your Anonymous of some years back, fades away. Such a double standard when we weigh the damage done by cannabis (which is not negligible either, tbh) against that done by alcohol or tobacco.
Jean Shaw said…
I had a bad bout of bursitis in 1 shoulder back in June and was surprised by how many people recommended CBD oil to me. As I live in Oregon, it would have been easy to obtain, but I didn't have the bandwidth to check it out at the time. I would certainly consider it in the future.
Jane Pinckard said…
My husband started taking CBD as liquid drops (dispensed under the tongue with an eye dropper) and his back pain has almost completely gone. He can ride a bike now! It's also helped immeasurably with his anxiety. I was always a bit skeptical but now I'm not. I don't know if it's for me -- yet -- but I see first hand how helpful it is for some.
Duchesse said…
Janice: I have a friend who uses tincture for her fibromyalgia, with excellent results.

Annie: I agree, some of that pot is just...stinky. I smell it on the street. Though I am by no means advocating someone try pot if it does not agree, cannabis is a complex botanical and the new products have been modified to decrease certain unwanted effects.

Unknown: Oh yes, and interestingly that is actually a desired effect among elders who have loss of appetite. A friend's mother hs been prescribed Marinol in her nursing home, to stimulate her appetite.

materfamilias: Bad Ma! Too funny! Looking forward to edibles, as I still don''t like the idea of smoking, but a gummie is attractive for the very reasons you cite ;)

Jean Shaw: Perhaps a friend could obtain a small "test" amount?

Jane Pinckard: Thanks for the personal anecdote. A friend who is a writer has been blocked by anxiety and pressure to produce and found that a small amount of marijuana calmed him so he could write. A •small• amount- too much and he said ""I just look out the window at my birds."

I wish that my state would at least allow the type of marijuana products that just have the pain relief qualities, without the "getting high" part. It seems to me that the pharmaceutical companies probably play a big part behind the scenes in keeping all types of marijuana products from being legalized. Their profits would drop like a rock if people could have pain relief, anti anxiety, sleep inducing medication that the pharmaceutical companies weren't getting any share of the profits from. They would lose millions and millions of dollars. The Medical establishment would also take a hit in the pocketbook if people got relief from marijuana products. Far fewer doctor office visits for pain, anxiety, sleeplessness, and possibly even fewer joint replacements if people were able to have some other form of pain relief for arthritic joints. Some day maybe things will start working for the good of people instead of the good of corporations.
Leslie Milligan said…
I live in Seattle and Washington state approved legislation in 2012, but most pot was made available in 2013. It took a while to approve sellers and growers, so don't expect a huge influx of weed for a while. The prices were high at the beginning and the availability of product was very limited until growers had time to grow. We now have robust cannabis capitalism with many competing roadside signs like you saw in Oregon. I've "inhaled", unlike Bill Clinton, maybe 2 times since 2013. It's okay, but makes me feel sluggish the next day. My husband really enjoys a smoke, maybe twice a year. I have found a product for my sore knees (I was going to say sore joints 😁) named Kush Cream, which is basically cannabis infused emu oil and menthol. I rub a small amount in and have a few hours of sweet relief. This is my preferred method of imbibing. To each his own, I say. I am grateful for friends with breast cancer who have access to legal symptom relief. I also hope that with more states and countries legalizing pot, the NIH will allow more research into the therapeutic nature of marijuana. I think it is necessary that you share your experiences, so let us know if you nibble on any gummies in the future. Great topic!
auntkitten said…
I agree that pot should be legal and have nothing against it personally. In Colorado a few years ago I got a creme to put on my arthritic joints. It didn't help much, but I was hopeful!

My only complaint is the smell as you walk on the streets of Montreal. Now we dodge this ever present pungent weed smoke in addition to cigarettes and streams of vape.

I'm interested to see how this plays out regarding enforcement and regulation.

Terrific post. I live in Washington, and would like to add to the earlier Washington comments lthat although pot is legal it is prohibited to smoke outdoors. Since legalization I have rarely smelled it on the street, even in neighborhoods where it used to be ubiquitous, so smokers must be finding it no hardship to keep it indoors. I have never smoked pot but am pleased that we are finding so many medical uses for marijuana and would certainly consider using it for pain relief.
I am in favour of legalization - with some reservations. I support the use of medical pot (and have a couple of friends who are allowed to use it for pain relief - with mixed results). Since I have fibromyalgia and RA it may be something I try in the future - since I have allergies which prevent the use of many drugs normally prescribed.
I have some reservations about recreational use and worry about such issues as driving under the influence. I see that the commercials have already started about not doing this but feel that it's inevitable. People seem to have finally got the message about not drinking and driving but now we are going to have to deal with other impairments.
Personally, I've never used it - mostly because I don't like losing control and I don't smoke. Plus - I don't like that sickly, sweet smell. Some of my neighbours indulge occasionally and the smell drifts into my apt. and I find it rather overwhelming.
I guess we'll have to see what happens - I imagine there will be a big uptick to start and then the novelty will wear off for many and things will settle down.
Venasque said…
I have to admit I laughed out loud at your and your friend's experiences. I am in awe of her eating ability.

Here's a story for you. A friend of ours recently gave his son an extra dresser that they had and he needed. He left it for him to pick up and went out. When my friend came back the dresser was gone but a dime bag had appeared on his pillow. It apparently was in one of the drawers. No questions asked or explanations given. He and I tried it with the usual effects we remembered from our youth. But no one else in the group would. It was a bit awkward finding everything hilarious and the others just sitting there looking at us.
Duchesse said…
Susie: Big pharma have a deep stake in keeping any competitive product out of legal channels.
Leslie Milligan: Thanks especially for naming the product. We won’t get it here but your neighbouring readers can benefit if the wish.
Aunt Kitten: See Leslie’s recommendation, above. Even when legal there will still be an illegal market. And Elizabeth, next comment, offers hoppe that there will be less on the street.
Elizabeth Hensley: I didn’t know that, and now that you mention it, did not smell it in OR either.
Margie: The matter of driving worries me too.
Venasque: Is that not a strange state? You might have felt like a lab specimen!
mary said…
I' m in favor!! Smoked in the '70's (not a whole lot) and then a friend gave me some joints when I was going through chemo in 2014. It is good for pain, but I also love the relaxation and sleep enhancement; the giggles and the truly awesome aphrodisiac effect! I'm healthy now and my husband and I love the expanded sensual effects!
Rita said…
Jennie's story was hilarious! I learned years ago that the secret of preventing pot-induced food binges was: Don't start eating! You won't feel severe hunger or cravings, so just make up your mind ahead of time and DON'T EAT while high. Because if you start, you won't stop! I really wish it would get legalized here, it would be so much healthier for arthritis pain control than steroids.
Duchesse said…
Rita: I will have to see if that works! If I cast my mind back, I did have cravings- usually ice cream.

One of my sons told me that late last November, he and his roommate got baked, and rm asked, "Do you have any chocolate?" I had given him two of those big Lindt Advent calendars, one for him, and one for his brother (which he was supposed to take to his house in a few days). Son and rm ate both of them! This all came out when I asked his brother how he liked his calendar.

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