Nevada seniors increasingly turning to medical marijuana - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU

Nevada seniors increasingly turning to medical marijuana

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A marijuana leaf is seen in this undated file image. (FOX5) A marijuana leaf is seen in this undated file image. (FOX5)

“Get legal and try it!” That is the advice from 67-year-old Red Michaels on medical marijuana. Michaels says he and his wife use cannabis and have seen a dramatic improvement in their lives. His wife suffers from stage 4 colon cancer.

“In my wife’s case it’s just been a real salvation," Michaels said. “ I’m not sure she would be here without it.”

The Michaels are a part of the growing number of people over the age of 55 using medical marijuana. In the state of Nevada  there are 8,000 patients in this category. The next biggest group of medical marijuana users is ages 45 to 54. Michaels said the numbers are high because it works.

“I get a lot of pain relief from marijuana. More so than a steady diet of hydrocodone,” he said. 

We went with Michaels as he picked up his medicine at Sahara Wellness. The owner of the dispensary, Brenda Gunsallus, said the majority of her patients are 50 and older.

“I have seen since we opened up how it has helped so many people,” she said.

The bump in the age of users coincides with the industry growing as a whole. In the Silver State, 23,000 people use it. Two years ago that number was under 5,000, according to the Nevada Initiative to Regulate and Tax Marijuana. The majority of patients are in Clark County, with 14,000. The main reason people are signing up is severe pain, followed by muscle spasms and cancer.

“We have jumped in droves and it shows!,” said Derek Sante, a spokesman for medical marijuana advocate Dr. Reefer. “And not even sporadically but on an exponential basis.”  

Sante speaks on behalf of doctors who are fearful to speak out in support of medical marijuana. Sante said doctors who openly prescribe it face enhanced scrutiny and insurance problems.

Marijuana advocates say they like where the numbers are going, but vow to continue to make it more mainstream.

“[Medical marijuana] has changed a lot of people’s lives,” Gunsallus said. “I have people pull me aside and say 'You’ve changed our marriage!'”

Medical marijuana was officially made legal in July 2016. Since then it has generated nearly $230,000 with 75 percent of that going to Nevada schools.

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