Why My Grandma Loves Weed + Cannabis For Seniors With Writer Lauren Yoshiko

Episode 227

Show Notes

Weed for Seniors with Lauren Yoshiko

Did you know that seniors are the fastest-growing group of cannabis consumers in the US? With cannabis offering relief for pain and other age-related health issues, it’s heartening to see the older generation finding comfort with weed. In today’s episode, we hear from Lauren Yoshiko about helping her grandma navigate the cannabis scene. If you’re curious about how weed could benefit your parents or grandparents, we hope you’ll tune in!

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Ellen Scanlon (00:00):

This podcast discusses cannabis and is intended for audiences 21 and over.


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Lauren Yoshiko (00:50):

I think pain management is such a thing for seniors and it’s such a day in, day out struggle. I think a lot of people get to the point where they’re like, I don’t care what it is, I just want to feel better, and feeling better trumps all their other psychological, cultural issues with this plant.

Ellen Scanlon (01:11):

Welcome to How To Do The Pot, a podcast helping you feel confident about cannabis. I’m your host, Ellen Scanlon.


You just heard from Lauren Yoshiko, the Oregon-based writer of a newsletter called Sticky Bits, about cannabis business, marketing, and consumer trends.


A few months ago I read one of Lauren’s newsletters and couldn’t stop thinking about it. Lauren is very close to her 80-year-old grandmother and she wrote about helping her grandma find the right cannabis products to help with pain and other age related health issues. It was while shopping for weed with her grandma, that she discovered that there are very few cannabis products aimed at people over 65 years old. Yet, have you heard of something called the Silver Tsunami? It’s a phrase that explains that half of the US population, half of the population, will be over the age of 65 by 2030. Take a minute to think about it. Will your parents or your grandparents be over 65 in six years?


In today’s show, we’ll learn how Lauren and her grandma first started talking about weed, why despite the vast market of potential customers, cannabis brands are not really targeting older people, and what this means for your older friends and family who might be considering cannabis to replace prescription drugs.


As we celebrate the fourth year of How To Do The Pot, I am so grateful for your support and excited to create new episodes that help you feel confident about cannabis for health, wellbeing, and for fun. We have created our first ever listener survey, so that your opinions can directly influence our upcoming shows. As a thank you, everyone who completes the survey will be entered to win a 12-pack of CANN’s cannabis infused sparkling beverages. The link to the listener survey is in the show notes, and thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts with us.


One of the stats that really surprises people when I share it is that seniors are actually the fastest growing group of cannabis consumers. The share of Americans over 65 who have consumed cannabis has nearly tripled in just a decade. The data from the National Survey on drug use and health found that people age 65 and older, are experimenting with cannabis more than any other age group. So I asked Lauren why she thinks cannabis brands aren’t targeting seniors.

Lauren Yoshiko (04:27):

This starts with a fascination with youth culture across the board like alcohol and most brands and industries ultimately are targeting young people, but that is different when we’re talking about a wellness thing. I suppose when you look at the tea industry, that’s typically pretty grown up and mature and there’s a smaller sect of brands that are targeting young people with their tea, and probably same with coffee. That’s something that people buy throughout their lives and that’s what cannabis is. It is not, it’s something that maybe you even buy more of different products when you’re older. So we have to rewire our trending brain because cannabis is a new wellness good, rather than this hot new young thing. It makes me think of those orthopedic shoe brands that are broadly popular, like Naturalizer, even like Birkenstock maybe, the way they’re appealing to all age demographics. I think people need to think more like that than Gen Z skincare brands, as far as what we’re marketing towards.


There’s a lot of factors, but we have to stop focusing on the youth so much because they’re not the ones thinking about responsible, holistic healthcare just yet, and that people’s interest in wellness is changing. That’s not just buying cannabis for recreation and we’re so hung up on the THC, high THC, recreational users, daily consumers, and that’s just such a short game to target that demographic. It’s both changing how we look at this product and changing how we think about the people who buy it regularly.

Ellen Scanlon (06:04):

Lauren is very close with her grandmother and has watched her bring cannabis into her life and help solve real health problems. Lauren is writing a book about weed all across the US and notice that it wasn’t just her home state of Oregon that had so few products for enthusiastic older consumers with money to spend.

Lauren Yoshiko (06:29):

When we were just gathering ideas, somebody brought up, it’s so weird there aren’t really brands targeting seniors. That was early on, but it wasn’t in our youth-oriented industry, that was not considered a hot topic, considered as cliquey a topic as others. So as things have just progressed in the last couple of years, so many brands, so many companies, it’s so saturated, it’s just surprising that that remains the vibe that there just isn’t somebody that’s all out like, we are a brand that is 100% focused on targeting seniors. That still doesn’t exist, and it remains to be seen. One brand that focuses wholeheartedly all of their products on senior consumers.


So, especially working on a book about the legal scenes across the country where I really looked into popular stores and cool destinations in 16 legal states and even then, looking around, it was like there was not experiences or dispensaries or product call-outs that were specifically targeting seniors. So that really drove the nail in for me of, this is a crazy thing. People are struggling and looking for legs up in the industry and we’re still ignoring this open gap of an opportunity. That’s what drove me to be like, it’s time to publish this one.

Ellen Scanlon (07:50):

Talking to your grandparents about weed isn’t always easy. Stay tuned, we have an upcoming episode with lots of tips for helping the conversation go smoothly. For Lauren, honest conversations led to finding ways to help her grandmother feel more comfortable with topical products for pain.

Lauren Yoshiko (08:11):

I’ve been really close with my grandmother since, I mean, since always, but particularly after college. When I moved up to Portland, I lived with her. So I was getting my card and going to dispensaries while living with her. When I first got my first few cannabis article opportunities, she was among the first to know about it and she was very worried about me, but she also is somebody that’s open to new ways of thinking. Somebody that we should all aspire to be, as far as she gets older and learns new things, her mind is open to changing the way she thinks. So at first she was really worried about me and my career, and now she’s wanting me to help her friends understand this world and much more open to it.


Once she started trying just arthritic creams and topicals, arthritis runs in the family and she felt the difference. I think pain management is such a thing for seniors and it’s such a day in, day out struggle, but I think a lot of people get to the point where they’re like, I don’t care what it is, I just want to feel better. Feeling better trumps all their other psychological, cultural issues with this plant. So now she likes to have a stash of gummies. She uses them really versatile. I’m really proud of her. She’ll use them for pain but also for anxiety. She does some public speaking as a survivor of Japanese incarceration camps and she’ll pop a half a gummy before she has a public speaking Zoom opportunity, which I’m really proud of her for because I think it mellows her out, makes her really receptive to talk about hard things. I could not be more proud of her incorporating it very holistically into her life.

Ellen Scanlon (09:51):

If you’re helping an older friend or relative try cannabis for the first time or the first time in a long time, I always recommend starting slowly and with low dose products. Lauren guided her grandmother toward low dose edibles.

Lauren Yoshiko (10:08):

I’ll give her gummies where I’m like, hey, these are rose edibles. They say they’re 2.5 milligram, I know you can have a whole one of these and you’ll be just fine. But if I buy somebody’s live resin, solventless, so-called five milligram, I’ll be like, definitely eat a half before you eat a whole, I have a feeling this is going to hit harder. She’s gotten too high before and I think is now familiarized with that feeling so she’s not scared to “overdose” and she knows, well, I’m going to have a weird next few hours, but I’m going to stay at home, no driving type of thing. But she also knows that the worst case scenario is she’s just going to get sleepy and lie down, take a nap. I would say that’s her dose, one low dose gummy or half of one. She doesn’t mess with flour. It’s just too hard to be able to dose that.

Ellen Scanlon (10:57):

Since there is so little marketing towards older people who want to try cannabis, friends sharing tips through word of mouth seems to be how information is getting out.

Lauren Yoshiko (11:09):

I know that when her friends come to her with serious pain complaints, she’ll bring up cannabis. The couple times I’ve heard her talk about a friend, it’s the friend is like, yeah, my doctor has already brought that up to me, because we are in the northwest. My grandma is quick to be like, you should try it, go for it, but she’s also really confused by the way it all works.

Ellen Scanlon (11:28):

Navigating shopping in the legal cannabis market can be confusing. If you’ve listened to any of our series about the first time that women buy legal weed, you’ll know that the retail experience varies and many brands are only available in specific states. Lauren’s grandma took things into her own hands to help a friend in another state.

Lauren Yoshiko (11:53):

There was this one friend she really wanted to help, but she lived in Washington and my grandma couldn’t understand why her friend in Washington couldn’t find the product that my grandma wanted to recommend to her. I had to be like, it’s totally separate market, they can’t sell overstate lines. Some people have multi-state operations, but even then it may not hit the same. She was like, well, why can’t I ship it to her? Why can’t she order it directly from this Portland dispensary? It was really sad to see through her eyes like, God, this is confusing and limiting, and it means her friend is less inclined to go try stuff because she’s starting from scratch versus I’m going to try this product that my friend recommended me.


It went so far as my grandma explaining all of this to a local budtender at a Portland shop, opening her cell phone, calling her friend, and then being like, I’m just going to pass it to the budtender, so she’ll explain it to you. That Bud tender took that phone and talked to my grandma’s friend in another state to explain these things and told her I think what to look for in Washington and what questions to ask, what hot words to use to get what she was looking for. So yeah, I don’t know who it was, but I owe her something, very sweet budtender.


If you’re a senior walking into a dispensary, I think you’re going to get treated really well because most budtenders, they want to take care of you because they’re charmed that you’re coming there confidently for medicine. When you’re a sweet little smiley lady, I would bet money that you’re not going to have a bad time. So she’s always really taken care of.

Ellen Scanlon (13:21):

Confusing laws can be boundaries to access for seniors, and one of the practical challenges is packaging that is difficult to open. Lauren explains why the well-intentioned laws around childproof packaging can cause issues for older people.

Lauren Yoshiko (13:39):

It’s a real problem that we’ve reached where legislation made these rules that made sense to everybody at first, but in practicality, as we’re seeing it roll out, it’s like, well, kids are still getting into weed because parents take it out of the package and put it in a Ziploc, and that’s not doing its job. So we created these blanketed standards of, it needs to be childproof and these are the standards of custom childproof, and it’s really over the top. It’s typically requiring single use plastic. It doesn’t work because they’re so complicated that we just take them out anyways. I’m a firm believer the more I’ve looked at this realm that it’s on parents, it’s on parents to store your product responsibly. If we can demonstrate that it’s really not so much childproof packaging as safe storage, it’s easiest to just put it in a Ziploc. In some cases that keeps it fresher and it’s more practical to restorage it anyways.


I literally don’t know what some seniors would do. You would have to bash that thing, cut it into a million pieces, it would really cause pain in arthritic hands to deal with some of these packages, I cannot imagine. The cost to the businesses to do these really over the top designs to try to make it still appealing and look cool and following all the guidelines, it’s really just creating an insane addition of waste and single use plastic to our trash cycle.

Ellen Scanlon (15:20):

Pain management is one of the top reasons for medical and adult use cannabis consumption, and the older you get, the more aches and pains begin to build up. I asked Lauren if she thinks pain relief is the gateway to weed for older Americans.

Lauren Yoshiko (15:41):

I think that does have everything to do with pain management and also probably something to do with the issues of addiction and the opioid use epidemic. We’re seeing, they see those numbers too. They have conversations with their friends too, and they’ve experienced it firsthand in some cases where it’s like, I don’t want to feel like that. I don’t want happen to me, what happened to my friend? So they’re open-minded to things that are going to make them feel better and not make them wildly addicted and not feel like themselves. The degree of pain and discomfort, reaching a point of, I will try anything, is what gets a lot of people to cross that line. Then seeing it and realizing, this is so great to just be able to exist as a person and not be constantly thinking about my pain, thinking about my side effects. That’s just a rippling effect and they tell their friends about it and how they feel. Then once you hear one of your peers talk about it, you’re even more comfortable. That’s one thing that is so successful about the retirement community targeting is that, yeah, I mean, they talk to each other. They’re all probably talking about medical problems all the time because it’s unfortunately a large part of your social life is keeping up with doctors and appointments.

Ellen Scanlon (16:58):

A trade organization called the Cannabis Media Council created an award-winning campaign to raise awareness about seniors and cannabis consumption. It features fun pictures of seniors doing what seniors do, like gardening and golfing and even getting sexy with their partner. It explains how cannabis can help ease aches and pains and make sex more enjoyable. You can find the whole campaign at I’mhighrightnow.com and I’ll link to it in the show notes. It’s the only for-seniors marketing of its kind that I’ve seen.


I think a lot about what I want the cannabis industry to look like in five, 10, even 20 years, and I know Lauren does too. I asked her what she hopes the cannabis industry will look like by the time she’s a senior.

Lauren Yoshiko (17:54):

I really hope that we’re able to bring in mason jars to refill our flour by then, any sort of wholesale store. I hope that cannabis is looked at like we look at green tea and echinacea and a lot of these healthful plant medicine options that are thought of both as like, oh, this is fun to drink when I feel like I need a buzz, but also this is good for me and I have it thoughtfully incorporated into my life, because it can be both of those things. Jesus, I mean, that’s just the consumables. In every other sense, I hope hemp textiles are more of a thing. I hope that we have a readily accessible, I want hemp made Tupperware, I want hemp made rugs and carpeting materials. The more I learn about this plant and the role it could play in our society, it’s like, man, we didn’t need to be this dependent on oil-made products and petroleum-based products because hemp is a pretty phenomenal textile and material. So I ultimately hope that the huge multifaceted stigma against this plant and all it can do for us is rolled back and we’re able to benefit from it in the ways that it can be used because it can be many things to us and do a lot less harm in the process to our planet and to our friends and family. So, hemp spaceships to the moon, let’s go.

Ellen Scanlon (19:28):

Thanks to Lauren for being on the show today, and if you haven’t yet, I really recommend signing up for her newsletter, Sticky Bits on Substack. She covers cannabis industry focused topics like why certain weed ads work on otherwise unfriendly social networks. She does a deep dive into hemp-derived THC and offers some weed conference essentials.


To learn more about cannabis and seniors, CNN has a series about medical cannabis with Dr. Sanjay Gupta. He’s done seven primetime shows on weed over the past decade, and a new one was released in 2023. I had a lot of trouble finding the video, but you can listen to the whole show on the Chasing Life CNN podcast and I’ll link to it in the show notes.


Are you interested in learning more about cannabis and seniors? Please send along any questions to hi@dothepod.com or DM at Do the Pot. Thank you for listening to How To Do The Pot. For lots more information and past episodes, visit dothepot.com.


Are you one of the thousands of people who love How To Do the Pot’s newsletter? If you’re not getting it, please sign up at dothepot.com, and if you like How To Do the Pot, please rate and review us on Apple Podcasts. It really helps people find the show.


Thank you to writer Joanna Silver and producers Maddie Fair and Nick Petri. I’m Ellen Scanlon, and stay tuned for more of How To Do The Pot.



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