Nancy Giacobbe has been a medical marijuana cardholder since the legalization of medicinal use of the plant in California in 2008. But in 2014, her husband Chris had trouble sleeping due to painful spasms and tremors caused by treatments for a rare form of cancer. While Giacobbe, 61, had used the plant for its psychoactive properties (i.e., the high produced by tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC) she soon saw the medicinal benefits of the plant's other, lesser-known compound — cannabidiol, or CBD — when Chris began to use it for his pain.
Giacobbe realized Chris could just use CBD without psychoactive effects. "When he would sleep, his face would just be at peace," Giacobbe says.
CBD, which comes in a wide variety of forms including salves, edibles and oils, does not produce the high typically associated with marijuana. But CBD seems to help people deal with pain, inflammation and even seizures, although even medical researchers and professionals aren't sure why it works, how it works or even how much to use for what ailments.
Her husband passed away three years ago, but Giacobbe, who lives in Bodega Bay, Calif., now uses topical CBD for her arthritis, which has the potential to severely hinder her work as an aesthetician because she uses her hands every day. She can use the CBD ointment during the day because it causes no side effects and has no smell. At night, she says, "I put the salve on my hands and put on cotton gloves. Within an hour, I'm a happy person and can do a full 35-hour workweek."
Giacobbe is just one of many older adults who now use CBD as a treatment — both with and without a prescription — for mental and physical health issues. As of March 2018, in Colorado, one of nine states in which marijuana is legal for recreational use (the others being Alaska, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia), people 50 and older now make up more than 36 percent of patients on the medical marijuana registry.