Cannabis 101 for Seniors

A growing number of older adults are looking to marijuana’s therapeutic effects to combat symptoms of aging
May 28, 2017 at 9:30 a.m.
Aaron Varney, co-owner of Dockside Cannabis, gives a talk at a local retirement community about the therapeutic benefits of marijuana
Aaron Varney, co-owner of Dockside Cannabis, gives a talk at a local retirement community about the therapeutic benefits of marijuana

This article is sponsored by Dockside Cannabis

Seniors from Vashon Island’s senior center are doing it, seniors in Kirkland are doing it – in fact, senior groups far and wide are attending “Cannabis 101” workshops and taking field trips to Seattle-area cannabis shops to learn about marijuana’s therapeutic benefits.

Aaron Varney, co-owner of Dockside Cannabis, with retail stores in Shoreline and Seattle’s SODO district, welcomes the growing number of seniors that he talks to on a frequent basis.

Samples of Dockside Cannabis products that were part of a recent "Cannabis 101 for Seniors" presentation at a local retirement community

“It’s been rewarding to educate seniors about the efficacy of cannabis, which can offer a low-dose method of treating symptoms associated with aging, and all with low side-effects,” says Aaron. He describes seniors attending his work-shops or coming to the shops as having a mix of excitement and trepidation. “But they are open to the help marijuana can provide once they become educated on its therapeutic benefits,” he adds.

The medicinal uses of cannabis are widely researched and include relief from inflammation, chronic pain, insomnia, anxiety, depression, glaucoma, epilepsy and for stimulating appetite. Beyond these specific concerns, Aaron describes cannabis as broadly therapeutic.

Modern cannabis comes in a wide array of products, including those with low THC content, the psychoactive – or ‘high’ producing – component of cannabis. “Most seniors are more interested in pain relief from marijuana and in addressing their symptoms rather than getting high, so to speak,” says Aaron. “They want to find a good entry point and to come away with a positive experience. They’ll ask, ‘What is going to happen when I eat this or rub that on my skin.’ They may not have any experience with marijuana, but they are open to learning.”

The seniors attending his workshops and those that venture to the stores want to learn about the various products and in matching the products with the symptom relief they are looking for, explains Aaron. “They don’t want to take the wrong product and get unwanted experiences.” Dockside employees always caution new clients to start with a low dose and to take it slow. Some seniors, adds Aaron, are interested in trying the psychoactive affects, which can awaken creativity or euphoria. And, of course, some folks have used cannabis in earlier days and are excited to try it again.

Seniors attending Cannabis 101 workshops learn that cannabis uses include topical application for joint pain and muscle relief with no “high” experience, fast-acting tinctures, slower acting edibles, smoking and vaporizing.

Aaron met one of his business partners, Maria Moses, in graduate school, where Aaron was pursuing an MBA in Sustainable Business. “It offers a holistic approach with an overarching motto that business can be a force for good,” he explained. “Maria was consulting for a local medical marijuana dispensary, and we got to looking around at the state of medical cannabis in the greater Seattle area. What we noticed is that there were not a lot of options for some groups – older adults, women and professionals. We wanted to serve those groups and opened our first medical dispensary in early 2011. We learned that people are looking for a safe, welcoming, professional environment that provides education and knowledgeable staff members. We sought out doctors and naturopaths, learned what seniors should be cautious of when first trying cannabis, and looked for best practices,” says Aaron. “We consider ourselves guides. When you work with clients undergoing chemotherapy, MS, Parkinson’s or chronic pain, you have a responsibility to do your very best.”

Visiting Dockside Cannabis’ retail stores is a welcoming experience that invites visitors to browse and ask questions. The SODO shop includes a museum with artifacts from pharmacies before the 1937 prohibition of cannabis, when it was considered medicine. “Cannabis is a heritage herb with a long history in medicine,” remarked Aaron.

Dockside Cannabis offers informational sessions at senior centers, retirement communities and at their retail stores. “The trips have been a hit with seniors, who seem to feel very comfortable with our staff and stores,” says Aaron. Their aim is to host fun, educational, comfortable experiences for curious seniors who have never stepped foot into a retail marijuana store. “Our mission is to educate and provide a welcoming place for our elders.”


• Dockside Cannabis is located at 1728 4th Avenue South in Seattle’s SODO district, and at 15029 Aurora Avenue North in Shoreline.

• To learn more about Dockside Cannabis, or to schedule a tour or “Cannabis 101” workshop, call 1-844-362-5420 or visit

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