Help pack a million meals for struggling seniors on 9-11. Volunteer today


AARP Staying Sharp: Keep Your Brain Healthy


The tablet with free 24/7 customer support. Learn More


Military and Veterans Discount



AARP Games - Play Now!


Learn From the Experts

Sign up now for an upcoming webinar or find materials from a past session.


Planning for Long-Term Care for Dummies

Get expert advice on planning for your own or a relative’s future care needs.

Learning centers

Get smart strategies for managing health conditions.



Heart Disease


Most Popular


Older Adults Increasingly Use Medical Marijuana for Nausea, Pain

It's still controversial, even where it's legal

But as long as marijuana remains a Schedule I drug, researchers face enormous hurdles in winning approval to conduct research. "It's a real catch-22," says Diane Hoffmann, an expert on medical marijuana laws at the University of Maryland School of Law in Baltimore. "Because marijuana is a Schedule I drug, it's very difficult to do the research required to move it to Schedule II."

Conflicting state and federal laws, meanwhile, have created a legal landscape fraught with uncertainties. Despite laws in some states making medicinal marijuana legal, cultivating and using marijuana remains a federal offense. In 2009, the Justice Department announced that federal resources would not be used to enforce the law against medicinal marijuana. "But that's a matter of enforcement," says Hoffmann. "It doesn't change the law." The federal government can always reverse course and begin cracking down, she points out, even in states that have legalized marijuana.

"I don't like to be on pain pills. I don't like what they do to me. I don't like how I feel. I was given some pot, and it really helped me."

'Just like ordering a pizza'

Already, a number of medical marijuana distribution services operate out of Oakland, delivering medical cannabis to nearby towns and cities, including Walnut Creek and Vallejo. "It's just like ordering a pizza for delivery, except it's marijuana," says Gilbert Doubet, 69, a Rossmoor resident, who estimates that five different delivery services regularly visit the retirement community.

Surprisingly, even some pot users have mixed feelings.

One 65-year-old resident of Rossmoor, who smoked marijuana in the 1970s says, "I gave it up when I became a mother." When she began to suffer chronic pain after shoulder surgery, she tried it again. "I don't like to be on pain pills. I don't like what they do to me. I don't like how I feel. I was given some pot, and it really helped me," she says.

Still, this pot user would rather her grandchildren didn't smoke marijuana. "I don't like the idea of them being caught up in that culture."

Erika Whiteway, 56, another Rossmoor resident, also tried marijuana when she was young but didn't like it. "It made me paranoid," she says. She tried it again, years later, to ease pain after knee replacement surgery, and it proved much more effective, with fewer side effects, than prescription painkillers. Recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, she now smokes marijuana occasionally to relieve muscle spasms caused by the disease. "It's been very helpful to me," she says. "And it's so much less harmful than other medications."

Indeed, she recently took up recreational boxing. Says Whiteway: "That's how much better I feel."

Peter Jaret writes about medicine and health policy from his home in northern California.

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts


Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.


Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Walgreens 1 discount membership aarp

Members can earn 50 points per $1 spent on select health & wellness products at Walgreens.

member benefit aarp hear usa

Members save 15% on easy listening devices and more at the HearUSA Hearing Shop.

Eye Med 4 Membership Benefit AARP Discount

Members save up to 60% on eye exams and 30% on glasses at Target Optical.

Membership Benefits Discounts Email Genius

Brain boost? Get AARP email for access to memory exercises & more that help you focus.

Rewards for Good

Your Points Balance:

Learn More

Earn points for completing free online activities designed to enrich your life.

Find more ways to earn points

Redeem your points to save on merchandise, travel, and more.

Find more ways to redeem points