We’re here with Karen Lustman, the founder and CEO of Senior-High. Karen is a passionate advocate, patient, researcher and speaker focusing on cannabis and its positive affect on active adults and seniors suffering from chronic pain and all other ailments concerning those of us of a certain age. Senior-High was created by Karen to gather factual information about cannabis products and how they can help active adults alleviate specific health issues using safe, effective medicinal alternatives to expensive and potentially dangerous pharmaceuticals. Armed with a laptop, an AARP membership, and a medical marijuana card, Karen and her team are determined to gather and share the latest developments and research from experts and Active Adults who have found relief by using cannabis. Karen, welcome.
So Karen, why the cannabis industry?
Almost 10 years ago. I missed a single step leading to the pool at a hotel where my husband and I were staying. I fell hard and flat on my face, knees, elbows and feet. My knees were badly swollen and excruciating painful.
I saw many doctors, each of them prescribing x-rays, pain pills, and therapy. It got to the point where I was taking 8 to 10 pills a day. My husband asked if the pills helped. My reply was “I don’t know, but I’m afraid to not take them.” I tried acupuncture, pain management, and even had a spinal cord stimulator implanted to try to mask the pain but nothing worked. I had to use a wheelchair and walker to get around.
We went to visit my daughter. We were discussing my pain and my son-in-law said he had something in the garage that would help. He showed me how to use his bong. I was 60 years old and had never smoked pot! I inhaled way too much but it was the most life changing experience I had ever encountered. Within a minute my pain was gone. But I was completely stoned. Even in that state, all I could think about was how I could use cannabis to escape the horrible neurological pain I was feeling and function during my workday. I couldn’t live my life high! Was there a way to reduce or eliminate the pain without getting stoned? That set off my journey to wellness.
That’s exciting. It may have been a happy accident but this event led you to create a vision for Senior-High.
Actually “Senior-High” found me. I immediately started researching cannabis brands, clinicians, dispensaries, manufacturing companies and everyone else with practical knowledge of cannabis. I started following thought leaders regarding any research on medicinal cannabis. I took several certification programs just to educate myself. But still, the information I needed was not available. There was no protocol that would tell me what I needed.
And I found a neurologist who diagnosed my condition, which is called an ataxia. It is not a condition that can be cured by traditional medical science. That was troubling but served to accelerate my research into the application of cannabis for its medicinal value.
So I started learning about the brands, ratios, how to consume and I started sharing that information. I blogged and called my experiments “human trials,” me being the human. I purchased as much as much as I could afford from dispensaries and tried every product, still not understanding how to use THC to relive pain without the psychoactive effects. For the most part, I learned what NOT to do, and shared my mistakes too. But I did learn how to use cannabis to help relieve my pain safely and effectively without getting stoned. It was a revelation!
And the more I learned, I found I was able to create a regimen of tinctures and other cannabis products that helped me cope with my ataxia. Soon I was able to get around much easier. I no longer needed a wheelchair or even a cane. I felt more capable. I felt younger. For the most part, I was able to live my life pain-free. And I still am.
I lived in a senior community in southern California and slowly the word spread that I was using cannabis for my pain and was making some progress. My neighbors started knocking on my door asking me what they should use for arthritis or sleeplessness. I became known as the cannabis lady. They still knock on my door, and I’m still known as the cannabis lady!
Obviously with Senior-High, you’ve created a platform to educate people that’s recognized by the senior community.
My husband and I realized early on that the color of our hair and my wrinkles allowed seniors to feel safe when we shared our understanding of how this plant had helped me manage an “orphan” disease and my husband’s arthritis from playing guitar for years. We were asked to speak to groups of friends and neighbors. We began Senior-High to provide organization and a formal structure for our efforts.
The numbers of seniors using cannabis has continued to grow at a phenomenal pace. And so has the number of seniors being admitted to ERs due to “greening out.” So we teach them about the importance of the ECS, about cannabinoids, onset times, delivery systems, and dosing. Too often our followers have ingested too much THC or have heard horror stories about their friends who have. Usually the culprit is gummies. They look so innocent, like their grandkid’s candy! But they can be chocked full of THC and can take up to two hours to have an effect. So, they take another one since they think the first one didn’t work. Then they’re off to the races!
THC is really misunderstood. We break it down so that our audience can get the desired affect without getting too high. From my own experience, I need THC to stop the pain but balance it with CBD. I vape and I don’t need the high amounts of THC normally within the products sold in dispensaries. Most seniors don’t.
We give them the education necessary to purchase and use what they need, not just what they are being told they should try.
You mentioned arthritis as one ailment seniors seek relief for. And that’s a good opportunity since topicals are easy to use, effective, and many products don’t even use THC. So there’s no reason to be concerned about getting high, if they’re concerned about that.
Right. My husband has arthritis in his shoulder and he’s our guinea pig for testing creams and balms that can help relieve the pain. He’s written a number of reviews that appear on our website. We also believe that a combination of the right tinctures combined with a good topical can help relieve the problem from inside and out. Pain can also be a component of sleeplessness, which is the number-one ailment we hear from our clients.
What type of events have you held, and what kind of events do you plan to host?
We’ve held scores of events during the past five years. When COVID reared its ugly head and our community’s meeting rooms were shut down, we held seminars in our living room, keeping the audiences small and practicing social distancing and masking. As word spread, the volume of people wanting to attend grew and we couldn’t fit them in our living room. That’s when we started getting invited to many community centers, HOA clubhouses and senior centers.
One of the most fun events we ever did was to take 30 seniors in limousines to a dispensary lounge so that they could experience the environment and perhaps enjoy products they’d heard about but never tried. We had a blast and spent quite a lot of time educating the gang on pre-rolls, gummies, vape pens, cannabis-infused drinks, and flower. We invited brand reps from a few manufacturers to conduct short presentations about their products. Our group started shopping and my husband said, “Look at them, Karen They’re like kids in a candy store.” And, you know, they were! It was an awakening! When the seniors left in the limousines, they all wanted to know what’s next with Senior-High!
It has just been such a wonderful passion project for me. I feel that I’m giving back to the community. I am helping people of our age really enjoy their senior years and it has just been great.
But as Leafwire members know, it’s a challenge infrastructure wise. We’re not even a grower or a dispensary, but we face the same obstacles as they do in terms of working with financial institutions, doing advertising, and getting affordable coverage from insurance companies.
The plus side is that there is a need to talk to seniors about these products and that pushes us to continue doing what we’re doing. In addition to offering a select number of products on our website, www.senior-high.com, we provide tons of useful information for the 55+ crowd. We offer one-on-one consultations either in person, via Zoom meetings or on the phone so we can learn about an individual’s issues, what they have done for treatment, what their goals are, and hopefully set them up on a regimen that will improve their quality of life. And we’ve earned the trust of a local pain management clinic who refers patients to us that they believe can benefit from medical cannabis.
Do you collaborate with some of these brands too that maybe are focused around products that can cater to seniors?
The senior market is the fastest growing segment of the cannabis-buying market, so it only makes sense to reach out to them through Senior-High. We are funded by the sale of our products. The education is free. So we are consistently seeking partners interested in collaborating.
The products we sell are all highly recommended. Our top-selling products are manufactured by a leading doctor, scientist and thought leader within the industry. I continue my own education through classwork that follows the science.
According to NORML, the percentage of all US adults ages 65 and older who report cannabis use in 2020 increased significantly in recent years to 4.2 percent. They’re already consuming. So why is a platform like Senior-High important?
Well, like I said, I think we’re offering information so they can determine the appropriate products for their individual conditions, from occasional sleeplessness to pain and inflammation, to mental worry and stress. We’re enabling this enormous market segment to understand retail labels, delivery systems, ratios, terpenes, the entourage effect, and other critical information seniors can’t find elsewhere.
We took it upon ourselves to learn from the experts and pass along that knowledge to our audience. That is our mission – to keep seniors safe and help improve the quality of their lives. We don’t want them to buy products that may not be right for them. We counsel them how to talk to their doctors before they use cannabis, how to use tinctures, balms and capsules and then how to buy products at a dispensary that will work for them.
Any last words?
Well, first of all, thank you so much for Leafwire’s interest in Senior-High. As more Baby Boomers become seniors, our audience continues to build, both locally and in the growing number of states where medical cannabis has become legal. We hope your audience will come to www.senior-high.com and contact us to develop mutually beneficial relationships. We welcome suggestions to keep improving our brand and our means of helping educate seniors – and their families – to the wonderful medicinal and recreational benefits of cannabis.