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Better than bingo? Seniors take field trip to Seattle pot store

Seniors on a field trip to the Vela pot store in Sodo get a seminar in terpenes, aromatic oils that provide cannabis with various aromas and flavors. The group made it a day trip from Sound Vista Village in Gig Harbor. Barbara Krause, 84, center, enjoys the presentation. (Alan Berner/The Seattle Times)

A van full of seniors visited a marijuana store in Seattle for a Pot 101 tour. They came away with tinctures, ointments and a new understanding of a substance few had tried.

Bingo was never that interesting.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” said Barbara Krause, 84, of the field trip she and other residents of an assisted-living community took Thursday to a Seattle pot store. “I was raised at time when you didn’t do marijuana.”

After a tour of the Vela store in Sodo, and getting a look at Suncliff, an adjacent growing and processing business, Krause came away impressed. “It was very professional. I’m hopeful. I think a lot of people should open their minds to the health thing.”

With the help of a walker, Krause left the store with a small container of an ointment infused with cannabidiol (CBD), a chemical in marijuana believed to relieve pain without getting you high, or very high. She said she bought it for her daughter’s arthritis. (“I don’t have arthritis yet,” she explained.) But Krause said there was a good chance she would try it.

The visit to Vela was part of a Pot 101 trip eight seniors from Sound Vista Village in Gig Harbor took to learn more about the cannabis plant, its products in the legal market, differences between them and their therapeutic properties.

Research shows that pot use by older Americans is on the rise. For Washingtonians 65 and older, the proportion consuming pot in the previous month increased almost threefold from 2011 to 2014, from 0.9 percent to 2.4 percent.

“We’ve had a lot of questions about cannabis,” said Tracy Willis, director of corporate development for Village Concepts, which owns the Gig Harbor facility and 16 others in Washington state. “The idea is to demystify it.”

To that end, Krause and others got an earful during the lunch-hour visit. They heard about sativa (more uplifting) and indica (more sedating) plants. They learned about terpenes, or aromatic oils that give strains their signature smells. They were briefed on differences between smoking, vaporizing and eating marijuana.

And, they got a warning about Maureen Dowd, The New York Times columnist who ate an entire pot-laced candy bar in a Denver hotel room and lay panting and paranoid for hours. Go slow on edibles, they were advised, and have a little bit at a time because it can be an hour before you feel any effects, and you don’t want to overdo it like Dowd.

Verna Gregg, 88, could have used that advice a few years ago when she was staying with her grandson, his wife and two children. “My nerves were shot,” she said. A bit of a marijuana-infused cookie helped calm them, she said. The next day she ate a good bit more of the cookie. “It took me out of my head,” she said.

Maria Scott, who cleared the store’s ID check by 70 years, said she had never tried marijuana. But as a gardener, she said she wanted to grow a pot plant because they’re good-looking. She bought a container of a CBD tincture. “I’m going to try this tonight,” she said, for her sciatica pain.

And she said she might just grow that plant, though it would be illegal unless she got a medical authorization. “I’m 91,” she said. “What are they going to do about it?”

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