With some 38 million members, and a magazine that tops the circulation of any publication in the country, AARP is arguably the most influential organization addressing adults over 50 in the United States. A non-partisan, non-profit organization, AARPâ€™s publications, benefits programs, community activities and activism have sealed its reputation as an unbiased and trusted advocate on behalf of its constituents.
So when AARP publishes what older adults should know about medical marijuana, as it did this week in a special feature on Marijuana and Your Health, you know the message is going mainstream.
This isnâ€™t the first time AARP has addressed marijuana topics. Yet the publication of an entire set of articles addressing the medical and recreational uses of cannabis and CBD, with a focus on practical education and dispelling misconceptions, represents a critical milestone on the road towards cannabis normalization.
AARP fills in the blanks
Sourcing accurate information about medical marijuana can be a formidable challenge for older adults. And in AARPâ€™s September 3rd coverage of â€śThe Basics,â€ť readers are warned not to expect too much in the way of guidance from their healthcare providers. And then, six additional articles and videos start to fill in the blanks.
Under the FAQs, for example, one can find measured, rational answers on issues such as the appropriate dosing of THC for older adults: start with 2.5 mg in a â€śstart low, go slowâ€ť titrating approach. Considering the confusion surrounding this issue, clearly presented information like this fills a critical void.
Other information, such as how to store different forms of cannabis, and the differences between Indica and Sativa, is more esoteric. But the mere mention of these concepts on the pages of AARPâ€™s magazine and website is enough to shift them from the periphery onto the mainstream public agenda.
In another article, on â€śWhat Medical Marijuana Works For,â€ť the author draws from available clinical research to conclude that â€śit seems to helpâ€ť conditions including chronic pain, insomnia, anxiety, PTSD, Multiple Sclerosis and Cancer pain. For millions of readers, this tentative green light from a trusted source may be just enough to alleviate their fears and tip the scales in favor of trying medical marijuana – after discussing it with their physician, of course.
AARPâ€™s official stance
Included among the featured articles is AARPâ€™s official stand on medical marijuana, as follows (emphases are mine):
In March, the AARP Board of Directors approved a policy supporting the medical use of marijuana for older adults in states that have legalized it. The decision was based on the growing body of research suggesting marijuana may be helpful in treating certain medical conditions and symptoms. The policy also notes that decisions related to the use of medical marijuana should be made between a patient and a health care provider and appropriately balance clinical evidence of benefit and harm, the patientâ€™s preferences and values, and any laws that may apply.
According to the policy, â€śAARP also supports further clinical research of medical use of cannabinoids to help alleviate both the symptoms of disease and the side effects of the treatment for diseases.â€ť The policy adds that â€śAARP believes the DEAâ€™s [Drug Enforcement Administration] classification of marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance deters the medical use and scientific study of cannabinoidsâ€ť and calls on federal officials to examine options to allow more clinical research.
Not a priority, but impactful nonetheless
According to Veronica Byrd, Director of Media Relations at AARP, medical marijuana is not currently a priority issue for their organization. Yet by explicitly endorsing the use of medical marijuana, covering the topic in such a pedagogic fashion, and calling for expanded clinical research, AARP may actually be more effective in dispelling stigmas and influencing public opinion about cannabis use and policy than any other effort to date.