Friday, August 14, 2009

Pot Collective Sprouts In Retirement Community

by Debra Baer

It's been more than a dozen years since California became the first state in the nation to legalize marijuana for medical use. In some California cities, cannabis dispensaries are springing up like, well, weeds.

But in more conservative communities, patients have a harder time finding legal marijuana. That difficulty has led a group of senior citizens in Orange County to start setting up a pot collective in their luxury retirement community.

Identifying A New Need

For decades, Leisure World's resort lifestyle has attracted retirees to its swimming pools and golf greens, tennis courts and dance halls. Resident Margo Bouer's passion is synchronized swimming.

"The water's magnificent," Bouer said. "I'm me in the water. This is what keeps me alive."

Bouer, 73, is one of the younger members of the Aquadettes, a synchronized swimming group in Laguna Woods, Calif. A retired nurse, she moved to Leisure World — also known as Laguna Woods Village — 16 years ago. For Bouer, water is more than fun — it means relief from multiple sclerosis.

In the water, she doesn't shake, or lose her balance, need a walker or worry about a new symptom that began last year.

"Suddenly, I'd have a wave of nausea," she said. "And from that wave, I'd vomit, and I'd vomit from the tip of my toes all the way up. And I had no clue as to what was going on."

In April, a physician neighbor encouraged Bouer to go to a meeting about medical marijuana. She says it was a stretch for her — a former psychiatric nurse whose generation considered cannabis little more than a gateway to harder drugs. But she went, and then she experimented.

"That night, I'm sitting out on my balcony," she recalled. "That wave of nausea came. I lit that pipe and I just held it in my mouth, afraid to even inhale. But I held it in my mouth, blew it out, like that," she said, inhaling and exhaling.

"I was so preoccupied: 'Now what's happened?'" she remembers thinking. "Well, what happened is that nothing happened, except that I wasn't nauseated."

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