Whatever Cannabis products your company makes, if you are not including the Seniors market in your strategic planning, and if you are not developing the specific messages, products and support mechanisms needed to reach and penetrate the Seniors market, you are not only missing a great opportunity – you are ceding an enormous part of the market to your competition.
It is natural for Cannabis entrepreneurs to concentrate on the markets they know best – which in many cases means mainly other young people, because a lot of Cannabis entrepreneurs are themselves on the healthy side of 65.
But just because their bodies are old, and their capabilities not what they once were, doesn’t mean that old people cannot become excited, loyal customers for any company that makes the effort to identify and address their special needs and desires.
Because Cannabis and Cannabis products are so relevant to the needs and desires of older people, and because older people are too-often simply being ignored as the Cannabis market is being developed, largely by younger people, those businesses who create quality Cannabis products tailored specifically to the needs and desires of Seniors will not only rake in a large share of the profits to be made in their sector, they will give themselves staying power that will last for decades.
There is a simple reason for this. A person in their 30’s today is going to be a person in their 60’s in the blink of an eye. (Believe me – it happens precisely that fast.) Just as young people create new opportunities for businesses, people growing old creates an equally powerful set of opportunities.
Seniors Need Cannabis & Cannabis Companies Need Seniors
Humanitarian arguments concerning the positive moral value of providing Seniors with loving, caring treatment with Cannabis may not seem relevant to people in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s who are busy building a Cannabis business. They are rightfully focused on their bottom line and so they are, for the most part, consumed with going after what they see as low-hanging fruit – the tens of millions of young existing Cannabis consumers lusting for new experiences, new products, and new ways to get high.
But that good old bottom line is exactly why smart young businesspeople need to pay attention to the sheer size of the potential Cannabis market for Seniors. Because numbers matter on the bottom line, and even if compassion isn’t part of the formal calculations, its influence is either there or it is not. And it does make a difference – in the case of the Cannabis market for Seniors, it can make a huge difference. Here are some things to consider.
Why Caregiver Demographics Matter
In Fall, 2015 the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) and AARP published extensive data that among other things showed that 34 million Americans had provided unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older in the prior 12 months. Using a 1:1 ratio that means a cohort of 68 Million people.
Research also consistently shows that more than 50% of people over 50 have a favorable view of medical Cannabis. However, since there are only @ 4 – 5 Million current Cannabis users over age 55, there are a lot more people who could benefit from medical use of Cannabis than are currently using it.
Given the numbers, it is reasonable to project that @ 50% of Senior Caregivers and 50% of the Seniors they are caring for probably have a favorable view of Cannabis as a natural medicine, EVEN THOUGH only a relatively small percentage of those with favorable views are currently using Cannabis.
Don’t you wonder why this is the case? If you have anything to do with the Cannabis industry, you should be thinking about this.
The data tells anyone who cares to look that 30-40 million people who have excellent reasons to be interested in Cannabis as a natural medicine have not yet tried it. Why not? Could it be as simple as this – they might simply need to have more information presented to them in relevant terms, or they may have serious fears that nobody has addressed effectively.
The NAC/AARP 2015 study also shows that: “The majority of caregivers are female (60%), but 40 percent are male. Eight in 10 are taking care of one person (82%). They are 49 years of age, on average. A large majority of caregivers provide care for a relative (85%), with 49 percent caring for a parent or parent-in-law. One in 10 provides care for a spouse. Higher-hour caregivers are almost four times as likely to be caring for a spouse/partner.”
So, a typical caregiver is a woman in their middle age caring full-time for a parent or elderly relative at home, unpaid and largely unappreciated, and subject to their own challenges of boredom, stress, fatigue and declining health. Many of these people are seeking, or would be open to, any solution that will make their job easier and the lives of those they love and care for better.
So, bottom line (there it is again), Cannabis companies, no matter what their products or markets, have an opportunity to expand their vision to address a whole new market of 30—40 million potential customers.
It’s simple to ignore that little fact – because you’re already making tons of money. But then the smart people who are your competitors will eat your lunch. That is the challenge to any business that wants to be a part of the Cannabis community.
There Are Seniors Markets Beyond Caregiver/Patient
There are over 75 Million independent seniors in the US, many with medical issues identical to those of seniors living under care, that can potentially be addressed effectively by Cannabis.
Let’s look at Sleep as an example – a health issue for which the right Cannabis strains are a well-established treatment.
Between 50-70 million Americans, over half of them over 65, have chronic moderate to severe sleep problems, and over 80% of them say they are extremely dissatisfied with the sleeping “medicines” they use. Over 70% of the Google searches for the “sleep aid” category in 2016 were for “natural sleep aid”. Clearly there are a lot of people who need help sleeping, a huge number of them over 65, and they are out there searching for help sleeping, which means they haven’t found anything that works yet, and their searches say clearly that they want natural medicines, not pharmacological poisons.
Properly used, the right Cannabis strains can reduce or eliminate sleep issues for many if not most of those 50-70 million people with moderate to severe sleep problems, both those seniors being cared for and those who are independent.
It may be unnecessary to say this, but that is a whole hell of a lot of people looking for a single type of product – an effective natural sleep aid. Hello?
I Know This Subject Intimately
I have been a caregiver for long periods in my life, first as a single father for 5 years with an infant son, and then later, along with my wife, we cared first for my mother and then for her mother for another 20 years.
Let’s just say that I am quite familiar with every kind of diaper, infant and adult, and I have lost more than my share of arguments over who was going to finish their dinner before getting dessert.
I have also been a Cannabis grower, writer and researcher for over 50 years. I wrote the first book on Marijuana growing in 1969 as well as the first book on making and cooking with healing Cannabis extracts in 1982.
So as I write this blog post I have the benefit of many years of experience both as a caregiver and also with the use of Cannabis Flowers as a natural medicine, a source of pleasure and healing, and a tool for insight and creativity.
What Many If Not Most Seniors Need
Seniors who need supportive care because of poor health or just plain age, as well as many completely independent seniors, share important quality of life issues including poor sleep, poor appetite, chronic pain, diminished memory, and loss of interest.
All of these conditions of old age, especially when combined with poor health, can be treated and in some instances healed with informed use of the right Cannabis strains.
Whether Cannabis Flowers are smoked using a traditional pipe, a fancy bong or as a classic joint, or whether they are used as a strawberry-flavored vapor oil extract or as a nice herbal tonic or tea, there are a lot of choices ofs pleasant and beneficial way for any senior to use Cannabis and there are many good reasons for them to consider the already well-established benefits and proven safety of this natural medicine.
If you are in the Cannabis business, you need to be asking yourself how your products can help make life better for all these people.
Good, relevant information is critically important for caregivers, and seniors who are being cared for, as well as for independent seniors, and for families to come to terms with any issues that seniors in the family have that are preventing them from benefitting from this powerful, safe and effective natural medicine.
Caregivers should seek out “voices of experience” either among their personal networks or on the internet who can offer insights and practical tips for reluctant family members who should be, but are not contemplating the use of Cannabis as a natural medicine.
Among the important questions that Cannabis companies need to be ready to answer are:
Which Cannabis strains are best for helping with sleep, appetite, pain and discomfort, physical relaxation and mental alertness?
How can alternative Cannabis preparations be used to meet special physical needs and personal preferences?
What are some small but important ways that Cannabis can help recapture fading or lost pleasures – enjoying memories, socializing with others, listening to music, eating and drinking, watching movies and reading.
Caregivers deal every day with all the details that it takes to help keep the Cared-For person’s life running as smoothly as possible. It is truly remarkably most of them somehow marshal the energy needed to give the person they are caring for far more than just maintenance – they somehow manage to provide close human contact, trust, warmth and caring.
Intelligent and sensitive use of Cannabis Flowers as a natural medicine can enable even more of that positive energy and spirit to flow between Caregiver and the person they are caring for, just as those same Cannabis Flowers also help treat pressing physical and emotional issues including sleep, appetite, pain and memory.
Dear Reader: I wrote the following words as the introduction to my book “Marijuana Foods” in 1982. For several years my life companion Lisle and I had been experimenting with Marijuana as a medicine and saw clearly that many sick people simply couldn’t stand the physical stress of inhaling smoke, even through a water pipe, which was the only smoking alternative back then. Not only that, but older people and non-smokers were almost completely cut off from the health benefits of Cannabis. Vaporizing technology was still decades away, and there was no such thing as the Internet for people to use to inform themselves.
So we did a lot of experimenting with extraction methods and food & beverage recipes – my wife is one of the world’s best cooks, especially when it comes to subtle things like balancing flavors and aromas – and I am gratified to see many of the ideas from this book showing up in the market today. I thought that I would share this “Marijuana Foods” introduction with you to show that the benefits of non-smoking alternative uses of Medical Marijuana have been a topic of conversation for a long time.
When I see all the great new ideas and new Cannabis products created to address every kind of health, happiness and quality of life issue in ways that Pig Pharma can’t touch, I love it that new generations of young people are finally making the Cannabis revolution so strong that it cannot be stopped. Rock On!
(from “Marijuana Foods”, Simon & Schuster, 1982: Chapter One)
Cannabis has been used for centuries as a medicine, and has held a central place as a natural healer and reliever in the pharmacy of societies around the world. America has yet to come to an appreciation of the medical usefulness of Marijuana large because of the successful maneuvers of the cigarette and alcohol industries to get a grip on both the political and the moral institutions of the country. It has been a classic maneuver, well executed and enormously successful, and it has taken over fifty years.
Frustrated in their attempt to impose a prohibition of alcohol on all of society, the forces of morality were quick to spot the far more productive target presented by Marijuana, used almost exclusively by the African-American people in the cities.
The powerful cigarette and alcohol industries saw this situation as an opportunity not to be missed. Knowing that it would be a mortal threat to their industries if Marijuana ever escaped into regular White society, because it would quickly supplant alcohol & cigarettes and couldn’t even become a profitable legal monopoly because it could be grown by anyone, they crafted a long-range strategy which after decades of work and the investment of billions of dollars has almost succeeded.
Moral outrage and self-righteous indignation at the distantly observed and perversely fantasized habits, behaviors and presumed moral degradation of poor people, especially minorities, has long been the habit of a certain breed of White people with withered souls. These people have historically tended to congregate in church-based prohibitionist movements. Recruiting and building this barely latent racism into a religiously sanctioned nationwide crusade against drugs was the strategy chosen by Marijuana’s adversaries.
In executing this simple strategy, the legal drug industries quietly aligned themselves with the forces of morality, feeding them with propaganda and funding, employing layers of sophisticated “foundations” to spare the moralists the pain of taking blood money, and together these evil sisters set out to rid America of (competitive) drugs.
Out of this strategy came the federal bureaucracy designed to “fight drugs” and deal criminally with the “drug problem” which the newspapers of the time defined in large headlines, displaying photographs of either Black people or Whites who were clearly low-life types, and stressing that even a moment’s lapse, a single puff, would lead to such as this.
That was scary stuff to the folks who had just suffered a decade of depression and now faced a worldwide threat of really dangerous aggressors… and it worked. The anti-drug laws of the late 1930’s marked the success of this tactic.
The cigarette and alcohol industries boomed during the War in every community of the world. It was cool to drink, cool to smoke, and everyone who wasn’t dead was alive so what the hell. After WWII there was no room for consciousness-expansion except via martinis in the U.S. because everybody was too busy pursuing the materialist dream of industrial expansion designed to keep the converted war production machinery humming.
The industrial empires left over from the last century, decimated by the crash and the depression, had recovered too well and made too much money producing machinery and other war materials for them to allow the factories to simply close down and people return to their peaceful way of life in the towns, villages and small cities.
Besides, farming and small town living was no longer very attractive to the millions of young men and women who had seen the world, survived a war, and come home as saviors and heroes.
In the late 40’s and throughout the 50’s, going to college and then out to work in rapidly growing companies making consumer goods for the exploding population of babies and families, these organization men and women never got high, couldn’t understand why anyone else would, and using the logic and “information” so carefully fed them by the prohibitionists through the increasingly pervasive media environment, judged those who used any drugs but alcohol and cigarettes as weak in character or racially inferior – probably both.
This is the environment we inherit today. Those at the top of our institutions, agencies and organizations are those who survived WWII, stayed straight, and either bought the anti-drug propaganda or cynically helped promote it, as part of a bargain with the devil in their rise to power.
They have inherited the mantles of power and influence created by the robber barons of the last century, along with the ethics and morality of those brutal humans, and are absolutely dedicated to reducing the people of this country to shackles. These people intuitively understand that the unrestricted use of psychoactive drugs would change society in ways which would make their feudal style of social and economic prerogatives and control too vulnerable to more desirable alternatives.
Marijuana And The Health Care System
All health care systems have a “delivery” component, a set of ways in which the benefits of the system are delivered to the people in need. When we look to the healing rituals of so-called primitive societies around the world we see that a consistent major difference from our own delivery system is the participation of family, friends and community in the “primitive” healing processes and their virtual exclusion from our own.
Scientists studying the effects of group participation on individual human physiology have long noted that whether through church, through kin-centered social activities, or just plain having fun with friends, the health benefits of socializing are indisputable. Such activity is known to speed healing, lower stress, and maintain good health.
Medical technical specialists have developed tremendous analytical and therapeutic tools, but until the institutions they have created for those tools allow the participation of those with whom the person is emotionally and spiritually bonded, the healing potential of much of this wonderful technology will continue to be limited and subverted by the physiological, psychological and spiritual effects of the stressors like isolation, confusion, fear, dread, pain, and despair which so many people feel while “being cared for”.
The Technodoc attitude generally downgrade this as a minor problem, to be dealt with by further medication, and indeed they do have medications which “de-stress” you – for as long as you take them. These substances interfere with the biochemical media in the brain which carry stress messages from mind to brain, and chemically sever the nerves which carry the stress messages from your brain to the rest of your body. They render your nervous system incapable of transmitting the signals which the major stressors produce; they do not change the conditions which generate the fear, the sense of isolation.
You’re still alone, still afraid, in a world full of things you never bargained for, but now you can’t feel the stress, or even register its existence on your conscious mind, so your problems are considered managed.
A New Marijuana-based Therapy
With the ever-present exposure we all get to the “modern health care system” it’s easy to forget that all this is relatively new. Until a few years ago almost all Americans dealt with disease, illness, injury, impairment and old age in the context of a family and a community of friends and neighbors.
This isn’t a good old days fantasy. Sure there were lots of people without friends or family who suffered and died alone – that’s one of the origins of the centralized health care delivery system, the urgent social need to care for the millions of people, many of them immigrants, who lay sick and dying alone in the city streets of the last century. Centralized health care institutions grew out of this core failure of the industrializing American system, when the very closeness of family and community which enfolded those in need was not available to outsiders and strangers, and when there was no alternative but the brutal poorhouse.
But there were also tens of thousands of smaller cities, towns, villages and rural communities where few lay alone, whether sick or injured, where aging people were passed from family member to family member if need be, but were kept, and where the medical profession was an enormously useful adjunct to the family-based health care delivery system but was not the primary caregiver. These days are recalled as quaint by some modern docs who chuckle about the days of house calls, though many wish that they could make a decent living doing just that. Marijuana therapies offer that option.
We live now in an age when care has become interpreted as skilled technical intervention alone. When a person becomes seriously sick or gets badly injured they are removed from their family in a manner that brooks no interference. Medical emergencies convey license upon lifesavers who rush you to the central facility where you are handed over to technical specialists, who then take charge as you are transformed into a “case” or “patient”.
Your family or friends, if you have any, are reduced to huddling in a waiting room where they are visited from time to time and provided reassurance that you are in good hands and everything possible is being done.
If and when the emergency subsides you are then passed on to other specialists who apply whatever medical technologies they are familiar with and choose to use in the name of standard medical practice. Their choice of technology and strategy is determined by many considerations, and their motives are usually the highest, but their methods are not to be questioned, and there is literally no room for family or friends to function in the role of caregivers. They can come visiting hours, and that’s it, because the institution is in total charge of care-taking, and their version of care-taking is how its going to be.
If the institution and the specialists can’t fix the problem you will be designated incurable and sent somewhere called a home, but probably not a home with your family in it, for “long-term care”. You generally won’t go with your family because they “aren’t able to take care of you”, meaning that there is no system to provide the resources which would enable them to “take care of you” at home. The systems that exist to provide and allocate society’s health care resources choose to allocate those resources to “taking care of you” in institutions which they administer and from which they profit, not to home-based alternatives which, while better and more cost effective for you, do not benefit them. They’re not evil, just doing what comes naturally which is surviving at all cost.
If you recover you are “released” which means you are free to go, after dealing with the bill of course. You walk out to rejoin your family, and maybe on the ride home in the car someone will ask you – ” So, how do you feel?” Well of course you feel “fine”, and that’s about it. Everybody goes home and goes on with their lives until the next time they crash or drop or break or pass out and then it all begins all over again.
But are you “healed” by all this? Your disease certainly seems to have passed, your bones mended, your new organ functions perfectly, your heart beats. But what about how vulnerable, how violated, how isolated you feel even behind the pills?
Given the institutional cultures of the current health care system, the isolation and emotional and spiritual deprivation of the severely ill or merely very old person becomes almost inevitable.
Family-Centered Marijuana Therapy
Family centered Marijuana therapy can be a powerful way for the family to re-assert its legitimate role in the process of caring for and healing the sick or hurt family member. Through the therapeutic use of the Marijuana experience families can draw closer, open up to the feelings and words so necessary for healing, reach out to each other and resolve issues, build upon the loving relationships which may have lain fallow for many years while all were healthy.
Those medical and therapeutic professionals who personally understand and value being high have an invaluable contribution to make to the healing of their own profession by working to bring back the quality of caring and life which is the hallmark of successful family-centered health care and which can never be provided institutionally. What is needed is a bridge between the institutions and the extended family in the process of caring for and healing those who are ill, injured, or aged.
The therapeutic use of Marijuana, guided and facilitated by medical and therapeutic professionals, can contribute to the building of this bridge, but not without a small revolution in which enlightened professionals and fed-up families and individuals come to some sort of simultaneous realization of how badly we are all suffering from an outmoded, crumbling and illogical system of health care delivery. Compassionate, creative, therapeutic use of Marijuana in a psychological and spiritual healing process opens new professional opportunities for many health care professionals who are personally experienced with the Marijuana high.
Why should personally enlightened professionals continue to submit to the whips of the cynics and moralists, those evil sisters, thus depriving their patients, clients, loved ones, friends and colleagues of the benefits of a holistic approach to Marijuana therapy which uses the powerful healing high, with themselves acting as compassionate Companion-Guides as well as medical professionals.
Considered, directed use of Marijuana is one of the most effective paths to healing for many people, and there is no question that it one of the gentlest, most illuminating natural agents put on this earth by the creator. To knowingly deny such a whole healing experience to the sick and dying is both sacrilegious and professionally corrupt.
Imagine the impact on the quality of the relationship and the healing potential if all parties to the process- physician, caretaker, family, spouse, and patient could use the Marijuana high to get past the kinds of barriers that typically isolate those in need from those giving care.
Wholistic therapies involving Marijuana would not seek to separate a biochemical “effect” useful in treating the disease or symptom involved. In place of trying and failing to control the psychoactive and CNS “side effects” pharmacologically or biologically in order to extract an elusive magic bullet, why not include the Marijuana high in a psychotherapeutically designed “happiness therapy”. Why not stop trying to manipulate people bio-chemically at these deeply invasive micro-levels and deal with the simple fact that whole Marijuana flowers whether smoked or eaten would, if freely available, be very useful for many of the medical needs of most people in a lot of serious situations.
There simply is no real need to make Marijuana into a pharmacological nightmare and charge people huge fees for institutionally controlled inferior variations of molecules found in every marijuana flower on earth. And even if scientists were to succeed in this absurd search for “the molecule” and “the pathway” which is the Marijuana high, the biochemical industry and the government would then be able to synthesize the chemicals and find the neurological pathways to biochemically manipulate other mysteries like love, happiness, patriotism and consumer behavior, and the arrival of 1984 will have been only slightly delayed.
I don’t expect this to be a problem , because the Marijuana high is not an effect produced by a chemical as much as it is an experience released by a chemical. The experience occurs within, with the impetus given by the chemical but moderated by the mind/body interaction, which is why it is so difficult for technicians to isolate individual Marijuana chemicals from the high and achieve clinically measurable “effectiveness”.
The experience which is partially mirrored in measurable effects like brainwaves and behaviors is embodied in the mind, not the brain, and the chemical acting on the body/brain does not produce the experience, it opens the doors of perception to the experience which occurs on a plane where complex activity leaves only slight physical or electrical tracings on even sophisticated detection machines.
As far as the machines are concerned the Marijuana experience has as much measurable substance as a ghost, and only those who have actually seen ghosts in the other realms would know when one showed up on their screens in this reality.
Archaeological evidence shows that non-western societies have known about the healing and therapeutic properties of Marijuana for thousands of years. Village and tribal societies throughout Asia and the Middle East have used preparations from the Marijuana flower for health, for relaxation, for stimulation, for worship, and for magic since ancient times.
Ritually potent high energy social interaction is a key to healing in these societies, contrasted with routine isolation and treatment exclusively by technical specialists in ours. Marijuana plays an important role in stimulating both interaction and receptivity in ritual participants, and therefore in the healing outcome. In addition, it is clear that these societies have long since discovered the pure medical properties of Marijuana in treating and curing both routine and serious diseases.
Through the use of the Marijuana plant in both ritual and medicinal context these more natural societies have found ways to put the sufferer in touch with those healing forces of the universe which are everywhere around us but which must be summoned and focussed before physical body problems can be relieved. This natural wisdom formed over thousands of years has a place in our approach to the severe health issues confronted today by millions of Americans.
Every one of us needs tender, loving care more than anything else when we’re badly hurt, or severely sick, or grieving deeply, or very old, or caught in any of life’s other painful, terrifying traps. While we all need loving care at some time in our lives, unfortunately caring for others seems to be a rare natural resource, a quality of the heart, mind and soul possessed by relatively few people. And yet tens of millions of us are growing older and will inevitably need care. Whether that “care” is institutional, custodial care that is little more than prison, or it is loving, attentive care from a Caregiver who is giving freely, is really a matter of economic opportunity as much as it is motivation. Our society desperately needs to invent ways for Caregivers to be able to stay home and care for those who need their constant care. I believe that the natural Cannabis medicine revolution and the accompanying regulatory structures may finally offer Caregivers such an economic opportunity.
Not Our Job!
The problem with getting love and care when you need them most is they aren’t actually a part of the job description of the so-called caring professions – medicine, nursing, rehabilitation etc. For the most past we are only truly cared for when an individual chooses to give it to us out of their heart’s kindness, not because it’s part of their job.
Of course there are professionals with large personal reserves of caring in the medical industry, but most people who have dealt with hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and the like would probably agree that caring is generally absent at most levels in these places most of the time. This is critically unfortunate, because without caring all the medical skills and technology in the world give small, cold comfort at best to people living their days in pain, fear and sickness, or who are confused and feeble, or those who have been broken and disabled.
It’s All Yours! Long Hours, No Pay.
Throughout history in all cultures giving love and care has been the role of women and slaves, which all societies have considered a domestic duty with little economic value, rather than being treated as a valuable resource. This deliberate pretense has robbed those with immense stores of love and care of their economic birthright, because the truth is that they possess what is ultimately most valuable, and most needed by almost every person on earth no matter how rich and powerful or poor and impotent.
Interestingly enough, a quick look at any group of health care industry messages reveals that most of them compete on the basis of caring about you personally – yet who actually delivers that caring if it gets delivered at all? The objective answer is that when caring is given in medical settings it is given disproportionately by women. It’s a tragic continuation of history’s irony that the people who own and control this most critical factor in competitiveness in the health care industry tend to be the lowest paid and most exploited workers in that industry.
Who You Gonna Call?
Increasing numbers of people have to face the rest of their life with severe illness and disability, dependent only upon whatever insurance and social services payments may provide and whatever network of family, friends and social services they may have available. There are 43 million homes in America where someone, usually an older person, is being cared for by someone who loves them and has taken on the responsibility – usually a daughter but increasingly, a loving son. People in this situation often have no other financial income resources than insurance and social security payments, and normally can’t work in any way to supplement their income. If the person is institutionalized the institution typically gathers in all available income and other assets in return for the care and treatment being provided – too often a cruel joke. If the person lives independently the health care services provided at home typically eat up all available cash flow leaving little left for quality of life support.
Any one of us not in need of loving care at this moment could, before the sun rises again, find our entire life changed with our independence and abilities gone forever. It happens every day to thousands of people worldwide. It comes as a diagnosis like cancer or AIDS, or it comes as an event like a stroke or an accident, or it comes on gradually as we simply age until one day we’re on our back or our backside forever. Yet when such a terrible thing happens most of us behave like animals struck dumb with terror by a nameless shadow dropping from the sky. We are paralyzed with fear, praying that the dark shadow isn’t heading straight for us but we know that it is. When it strikes, we are helpless, and for far too many people that moment is only the beginning of helplessness.
A Tale Of Two Worlds
During Wiley Johnson’s final life experience the only other people he saw regularly, other than his family and a few friends, were two hospital staff people named Ernest and Betty. Ernest was an orderly and Betty was a nurse’s assistant, and both were in their fifties. Betty was an African-American woman from Oak Cliff, and Ernest was a Latin American man originally from Sonora, now from East Dallas. They became Wiley’s friends, saw him every day, fussed over him, joked with him, and listened to him. They cared for Wiley physically and personally, cleaning and grooming him, doing small kindnesses for him, and most of all, treating him like a person.
In the month he spent in the hospital Wiley was attended to by a steady stream of high priced specialists. Although many of them were professionally pleasant and “caring”, they were each very busy, and they never listened very well as Wiley kept complaining of a pain in his stomach. Both Ernest and Betty took Wiley seriously enough to express concern to the family, and we made inquiries to the doctors as they zipped in and out. Finally, to deal with Wiley’s complaints and the family’s concerns a “heart man” was brought in and, sure enough, he announced that Wiley had a heart problem. But he’s never had a heart problem, we protested, and received the standard “doctor knows best” routine. Despite our objections Wiley was started on an intravenous blood thinner drip. Within 24 hours a massive undiagnosed clotted ulcer deep in his bowel let go, and after nearly six weeks of suffering and loss of dignity and nearly a hundred thousand dollars worth of professional medical “care”, Wiley quickly died of his stomach pains.
As my wife, her mother and I left the hospital garage after Wiley’s death, we noticed the expensive foreign car ahead of us being driven by Wiley’s heart specialist and remarked on the irony of his life-style and our situation at this moment. Then as we pulled out into the early evening streets, we saw another person, standing at the bus stop, holding a lunchbox. It was Betty, waiting for the bus to Oak Cliff, which pulled up just as we came around the corner so she never saw us. So one small family went home without its husband and father, the heart man went home in his expensive foreign car, and Betty and, no doubt Ernest, took the bus home to whatever home they could afford on their meager salaries.
Value In Use & Value In Exchange
This story may seem to be about hospitals, and doctors who sometimes heal and who sometimes kill – but it isn’t, it’s about a system of care-giving turned upside-down, where people who give the thing of greatest value, who give care, attention, friendship and sometimes love to lonely, frightened people in pain, rarely benefit in economic terms from their personal expenditure of this precious human capital, although it is exploited to their enormous benefit by institutional employers. Those who because of character, nature and culture possess the two principal forms of human capital – care and love – are rarely in a position to benefit from the exploitation of those rich sources of economic benefit.
Adam Smith wrote in “Wealth Of Nations”:
“The word value, it is to be observed, has two different meanings, and sometimes expresses the utility of some particular object, and sometimes the power of purchasing other goods which the possession of that object conveys. The one may be called “value in use”; the other, “value in exchange”. The things which have the greatest value in use have frequently little or no value in exchange; and, on the contrary, those which have the greatest value in exchange have frequently little or no value in use.”
He goes on to point out that salt is essential for health, and water is essential for survival, but that they have little value in exchange – except, of course, in arid regions of places like the American west where water rights are a distinct separate form of property rights.
Ladies! Get To Work!
For many generations, love and caring have been little valued and poorly rewarded, and at the same time they have been both demanded and coerced from those who possess these resources in greatest concentration. There has been no “value in exchange” for love and care, and instead there has been a vast pretension that these two resources are worthless. There has been very little “value in use” because love and caring were treated largely as domestic, wifely, or household tasks rather than core economic activities in the public domain.
For endless generations what little love and care there was in the world was delivered primarily by women in their roles as mother, wife, big sister, nursemaid, nanny, teacher, nurse, laborer, prostitute, and slave to their children, men, and family, and to their exploiters, owners, and employers. In return for this love and caring women have historically been paid little or nothing, and for most of history it has simply been expected of women by males and their institutions, and women have had no choice but to go along with this elaborate, degrading, and ultimately destructive pretense.
It’s About Time
However, the wheels of history turn, and circumstances are now right for millions of naturally gifted caregivers, primarily women but increasing also caring men, to take advantage of a revolution in need that is coming rapidly and predictably. Quite simply, the revolution is coming because there is a rapidly growing acute demand for the human capital resources of love and care in our society.
The medical Cannabis laws in increasing numbers of states offer independent Caregivers not only the opportunity to grow a small crop of medical Cannabis for the person who they are caring for, and for themselves if they also have the right paperwork, but in many states a Caregiver can grow medical Cannabis for a limited number of other patients who qualify for medical Cannabis. This offers a tremendous opportunity for Caregivers to generate welcome additional income from legal sale of medical Cannabis to patients in addition to the person they are caring for.
This is also an area where the huge numbers of Caregivers & Patients can have a dramatic impact on Cannabis laws. Caregivers who are sacrificing their ability to earn an income in order to take care of a loved one should be able to have a license to cultivate as much Medical Cannabis as they can grow, and the freedom to give or sell that Cannabis to any other legal patient and also to medical Cannabis dispensaries. With over 40 million Caregivers in the US caring for over 40 million patients, none of whom have the ability to earn an income because of the 24/7 nature of Caregiving, legalized home cultivation of Cannabis could be a powerful source of economic liberation for a huge number of Americans who have no other possibility of earning a decent income.
Hey! What About The Guys?
It’s not news to anyone that it is almost exclusively men, and male-dominated institutions in every culture which make war, exploit people, create suffering and pain, rape, desecrate, pollute and destroy, and promote anger, vengeance, hatred and cruelty. While there is little room in this tough, mean male world for men who express love and caring, it is expected, demanded, and coerced with little or no compensation from all women. In every major world culture deeply ingrained male institutions assure that the benefits of love and caring are available essentially for free to men from childhood onwards – on demand, so to speak.
It’s All Changing
I believe that we are entering a period in the early 21st Century when this can change in ways that can also revolutionize the harsh, male-dominated society that now rules, and Cannabis consciousness can be a key breakthrough factor in this revolution. And I believe that women and their enlightened male counterparts who are caregivers to the sick and elderly can lead the way forward.
I believe that for the first time in history it is possible to design workable ways for people who have an abundance of the human capital resources of love and caring to organize and put these resources to work for their own economic and social benefit. Medical Cannabis can be the center of a new home-based economic revolution.
I believe that groups of Caregivers working within religious and non-profit institutions, will be able to leverage the medical Cannabis laws to enable them to compete effectively with the so-called health care industry for the Trillion-dollar residential long term care market about to be created by the aging baby boomers and their parents.
And I believe that the economic opportunities offered by legal medical Cannabis are going to be the foundation of a new, home-centered, patient-centered, natural medicine revolution in how old, sick and damaged people can be cared for by those who love them.