Laura Bliss is CityLab’s west coast bureau chief. She also authors MapLab, a biweekly newsletter about maps (subscribe here). Her work has appeared in the New York Times, The Atlantic, Los Angeles magazine, and beyond.
In Berkeley, of course. And the woman behind it is pretty cool.
An ordained minister and one-time Catholic-school principal hopes to provide an unusual new service for the senior citizens of Berkeley, California: a cannabis dispensary exclusively for them.
Tuesday night, Sue Taylor advanced to round four of Berkeley City Council’s rigorous selection process for new dispensaries. Besides supplying medical marijuana and marijuana-based products such as edibles, Taylor hopes to offer a host of health classes and clinics aimed specifically at the 65-and-over set.
As she tells East Bay Express in a podcast interview, it’s been a long, strange trip to becoming the would-be owner of the world’s first seniors-only pot shop.
Seven years ago, Taylor dreamed of one day opening a wellness center—offering yoga, acupuncture, and meditation classes for seniors. It was her son who suggested funding her dream by opening a dispensary.
Though the suggestion was at first shocking, Taylor began to research the medical benefits of marijuana. After watching an old friend die a painful death from cancer, she started working at a major dispensary as a senior-outreach specialist. Besides easing cancer symptoms, marijuana seemed to help older patients deal with chronic pain, arthritis, sleeplessness, and nausea—just some of the problems related to aging that cannabis has been shown to relieve.
“I cannot walk away from the healing I’d seen from seniors,” she says on the podcast. “Time and time again people come to me and say, ‘I’m no longer on the pharmaceutical drugs. I’m just doing cannabis now.’”
Taylor is now state-certified to educate health professionals about medical marijuana. She advocates for legalization in California and has fallen in love with medicated rubs and tinctures. An African-American woman and senior herself, Taylor writes on her personal website that she “obliterates the stereotype of a legalization advocate.”
As Taylor works to open her dispensary, she’s likely to find plenty of demand: In recent years, federal surveys have shown rising numbers of marijuana users over 50. And as an instant-classic viral video taught us all, older folks can also still have a really silly good time with the stuff.