Cannabis use is growing among seniors. What does it mean when our largest demographic lights up?

The legalization of cannabis is disrupting everything in Canadian life, including how we age.

Leida Englar’s earrings match her sweatpants and her lips are painted red. In the 70s, at the height of Reefer Madness, the police were searching Toronto Island for Keith Richards, and her community had her back.

“Leida, Leida, the cops are searching the island. You OK?” recalls Englar, who grew, and still grows, stalks of marijuana high as the head of the Rolling Stones’ guitarist in her backyard. “Police were busting the bands, but people protected us weed smokers — even the Island cops.”

Englar is 75, which makes her part of the fastest growing demographic of cannabis users in the country. Identical to the trend in the United States, it’s seniors in Canada who are embracing marijuana in numbers, whether for pain relief, depression, boredom, anxiety, insomnia or, most likely, a tossed salad of symptoms blurring the line between medicinal and recreational use.

“I get into my nightgown, eat part of a cookie, and wait for that tingly feeling,” says Englar, a grandmother, widowed and blind in one eye with long hair and an active social life. She’s been growing cannabis, a word she doesn’t use, for the past 40 years and has always given away her weed — the word she does use — to anyone who asks.

 

Grown free, her bud doesn’t look like the stuff we’ve been able to legally purchase since Oct. 17; it’s all wild leaves, stems, seeds and sticks and a stalk that she shows this reporter is longer than a guitar.

In 1968, Englar smoked her first joint and the weed she’s nurtured by hand comforted her husband Jerry by her big bay window, listening to music, with their children and friends, during his dying days. She has a liberal approach to cannabis, and acknowledges that it may have influenced her son and daughter getting high in their early teens.

Medical marijuana, whether it’s smoked, consumed, or applied through a topical treatment, can help relieve acute and chronic pain by attacking the already-present cannabinoid receptors in our body. It helps relieve pain from:

  • Joint pain, like arthritis

  • Nerve damage

  • Chronic illness, like cancer

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