OAKLAND (KCBS)— At Harborside Health Center in Oakland, Executive Director Steve DeAngelo is giving out an awful lot of senior discounts these days. Like to the older customer he saw crying on a bench, after rubbing a cannabis ointment on her arthritic knuckles.
“When I asked her what was wrong she smiled and said, ‘Why nothing is wrong,it’s just that for the first time in five years I’ve been able to open up my hands,’” he said.
DeAngelo said seniors make up about 30 percent of Harborside’s current clientele. There are dozens of gray-haired heads waiting in line for strains of marijuana called Purple Train Wreck and Lavender Skunk at the East Oakland center, which claims to be the largest medical cannabis outfit in America.
68-year-old Robert Fournier, who was shot down fighting in Vietnam, said he’s dumped all the prescription drugs the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs and Kaiser gave him, because medical marijuana works better, is far cheaper, and doesn’t have the disabling side effects.
“As soon as people get past that stigma, it’s been a huge improvement. My blood pressure is lower than when I was on those [other] medicines. I can sleep at night instead of my hips and back bothering me so bad,” Fournier said.
Sue Taylor, 66, a retired Catholic school principal, and an Alameda County Advisor with the Commission on Aging, seems like the least likely cannabis consumer you’ll ever meet. She didn’t know there were new strains that don’t make you high or that she could take tinctures and gummi bears instead of smoking.
“It helps me to sleep and it alleviates the pain in my back,” she said.
Now she’s doing outreach to other skeptical seniors about the therapeutic value of medical marijuana.
“They’re attracted to the cannabis because you don’t have to smoke it and the psycho activity is lessened or gone. Cannabis is a viable alternative to the pharmaceuticals,” she said.