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As medical pot use soars among seniors, a California dispensary offers them door to door shuttle service

Key Points
  • Bud and Bloom, a marijuana dispensary, takes retirees from a senior living community to its shop in Santa Ana.
  • Seniors are "a growing segment of society especially as people get older because of the excellent health care in our society," Bud and Bloom owner Scott Miller told CNBC.
Riding the canna-bus

There's a new shuttle service in California, and it's on a mission to help seniors with their aches and pains. But riders won't find any Tylenol or Advil on this particular trip to the drug store.

Instead, this bus serves as a cannabis run.

The shuttle is provided by the marijuana dispensary Bud and Bloom. Once a month, it takes retirees from Laguna Woods Village, a senior living community in southern California on a half hour drive to its dispensary in Santa Ana.

Before going in, a representative from Bud and Bloom, as well as other marijuana vendors, will take turns talking to the group about the potential benefits of cannabis, and how it can be consumed.

"I think it's very important to engage the senior community. It's a growing segment of society especially as people get older because of the excellent health care in our society," Bud and Bloom owner Scott Miller told CNBC.

Denis Balibouse | Reuters

And the popularity of marijuana among boomers and seniors is growing rapidly. According to recent research from Cowen and Company and the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, cannabis users age 55 and up nearly quadrupled in the last ten years. That segment skyrocketed from 5 percent to 18 percent, as older Americans flocked to medical marijuana.

Meanwhile, over 30 states and the District of Columbia have legalized pot for medical or recreational use.

Shari Horn, a former resident of the Laguna Woods Village who is now an advocate of medical marijuana and a member of the city council, uses topicals and tinctures derived from pot in order to ease arthritis pain.

"I've been using cannabis my whole life, you know, way back in the 60s," Horn tells CNBC.

But for others who are less familiar with marijuana, the shuttle serves as an educational tool.

"The idea here really is to educate. These field trips are not just an opportunity to market to the senior community, but an opportunity to educate. And then they tell their friends, and it grows, it gets attention," said Miller.

Still, not everyone is in favor of the idea. Sandy Sopher, a senior who uses cannabis for pain, told CNBC that social stigma is still a barrier to wider adoption.

"I had a neighbor and she doesn't even want to talk to me anymore because she found out I smoke cannabis," said Sopher.

Earlier this month, Canada legalized marijuana for recreational use, and analysts are closely watching the reaction to see how that could impact the United States.

Cowen Senior analyst Vivien Azer told CNBC that Canada's experience could provide insight into how pot gets adopted by a society at large, and whether that erodes the stigma of its use.

As many people claim the medical benefits of the drug, there has been little scientific research done because of its legal status.

"The DEA has started to give approvals to Canadian companies to actually import their cannabis to academic institutions in United States for research," Azer told CNBC.

While she doesn't expect federal legalization anytime soon in the U.S., "we expect things to continue on a state by state basis in the near term."

She added: "The midterms will be critical in terms of watching for that evolution."

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