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For Holland, a retired physician, the biggest barrier was finding good information.

After he suffered a massive stroke that left him with tremors, loss of appetite and insomnia, he said, “I’d wake up at 1 or 2 in the morning and I could not go back to sleep for the rest of the night.

Also, patients can use marijuana to get relief without smoking it or even getting high. Donald Abrams, chief of oncology and hematology at San Francisco General Hospital, treats cancer patients at the UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine.

He said “not a day goes by” that he does not see seniors with nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, pain, depression or anxiety. “When I see those people, I’m able to offer them one medicine instead of writing them prescriptions for five or six, all of which might interact with each other or the chemotherapy or targeted therapy that the patients are taking,” Abrams said.

“I think a lot of people are totally unaware of cannabis’ potential health benefits.” There are many seniors who are aware and supportive of medical marijuana.

In the retirement community of Rossmoor in Walnut Creek, for example, monthly meetings of its Medical Marijuana Education and Support Group regularly attract 150 attendees; about 500 seniors are on its email list.

“We have not developed any clinical practices guidelines for medical marijuana,” said Dan Trucil, assistant director of communications with the American Geriatric Society.

Paul Holland and talked about the hurdles seniors face learning about and safely using cannabis.

For more than 20 years, Huen has counseled thousands of arthritis and insomnia patients to try marijuana.

On this night, though, Huen worked to persuade the Sunset group of the benefits of what would be the neighborhood’s first licensed pot shop — one he and his wife, former Oakland mayor Jean Quan, would co-own.

Medical facilities generally lack written policies approving the use of medical marijuana, so seniors who do use it often do so covertly.

And even in a region historically tolerant toward marijuana, much of the Bay Area is blanketed in bans on medical pot dispensaries, making it difficult for anyone to safely locate and buy the drug.

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