BY: JESSICA BEUKER
At 69 years old, Sue Taylor is extremely healthy. A former catholic school principal and ordained minister, the mother of three attributes her good health to eating right, lots of exercise and cannabis.
Last month, the city of Berkeley, California selected Taylor and her proposed project, iCANN, from a pool of six applicants to open the town’s fourth legal medical-marijuana dispensary. Taylor is one of two people in the State of California who is certified to educate senior living facility staff and caregivers about medical marijuana, and her dispensary would be the first in the country to cater specifically to those over the age of 65.
Four years ago, Taylor began taking edibles to deal with some back pain she was experiencing. She would take just one-eighth of a gummy and found the results to be very effective. Since then she has become a local advocate for medical marijuana, speaking at senior centres, nursing homes and churches. She believes that cannabis is a useful tool for dealing with all of the pain and ailments that come with aging. According to OZY, the average senior is prescribed between 14 and 18 prescription drugs per year, and Taylor says Cannabis could cut that number drastically.
With iCANN, Taylor plans to convert an old 3,900 square-foot space into a beautiful shop that sells marijuana salves, tinctures and low-salt and low-sugar edibles for those with diabetes or high blood pressure. Health classes and clinics will also be offered.
But Taylor wasn’t always pro-marijuana. In fact, for most of her life she believed it to be a hard, deadly and life-altering drug. According to Jezebel, Taylor dreamed of opening up a holistic health centre, and would never have considered marijuana as a means to do it until her son brought it up.
Her son, Jamal, had been attending the first-ever marijuana industry trade school in Oakland. “You could have yoga and acupuncture and meditation, all that, and it would be funded by cannabis,” he told her, but Taylor wasn’t persuaded. So, worried about her son, she hopped on a plane to Oakland, but once she arrived she began talking with professionals in the cannabis industry and her opinions started to change. It was the personal stories of healing that had the biggest effect on her.
Today, Taylor faces the same hurdles when trying to educate other seniors who have grown up believing that marijuana is a deadly drug, especially those who are African-American. “After years of seeing young lives upended by the drug trade and the uneven policing around it, the Black community has been slow to seek opportunity in the multibillion-dollar legal-marijuana industry,” write OZY.
But Taylor has strong opinions on that as well. “Here are white men poised to run big marijuana businesses, dreaming of cashing in big—big money, big businesses selling weed—after 40 years of impoverished black kids getting prison time for selling weed, and their families and futures destroyed,” says Taylor in a conversation with the Drug Policy Alliance. “Now, white men are planning to get rich doing precisely the same thing?”
It’s an issue that doesn’t sit right with Taylor and one of her motivators to keep going. In an interview with Jezebel, Taylor explains further why her work is so important to her: “I want to bring awareness that there are alternatives to pharmaceutical drugs, and to empower people, whatever their age, so they can experience a meaningful, high quality of life. It’s not, “When you turn 60 life’s a bitch and then you die.” That’s not true. I am approaching 69 and I am happier now than I’ve ever been.”