Ganja-Smoking Grandparents Stir Up Trouble in California

By Dirk Hanson 06/14/11

Dispute over retirement village gardening pits medical marijuana retirees against “old-timers.”

Not just for stoners anymore.
Photo via 420times

Laguna Woods Village, tucked into a conservative southern California county, has managed to outrage neighbors with a thriving 150-member medical marijuana collective. Lonnie Painter, a 65-year old grandfather who uses marijuana along with prescription painkillers for osteoarthritis, told Associated Press that “we’ve got people who don’t like it here, they don’t like marijuana…. What I get more worried about is myself getting put in jail. If you were just a patient you’d be safe, but if you are active and involved in any way in make it available for others, the federal government can come and scoop you up.”

To be honest, things have gone fairly well so far, and nobody’s scooped up anybody, given that it’s all legal under California law. However, Painter did push his luck when the 2-year old collective first got underway, growing two dozen healthy specimens of Super Silver Haze before the volunteer board that governs the retirement community of 18,000 people said “enough.” The board voted to prohibit the cultivation of marijuana in the community garden due to the reported theft of “two marijuana plants, tangerines, and a rake and shovel.” Which really is pushing things a little too far. It sounds like the chairman of the Garden Advisory Group had a heavy vote in the matter: “It sets a precedent. Our gardens are for flowers and vegetables, and that’s all, and it’s been that way since 1964 or 1965 when this was started,” said chairman Howard Feichtmann.

Believe it or not, local observers say the core of the problem is actually a generation gap. The average age at Laguna Woods Village is 78, AP reports, while new residents begin moving in at age 55. The newcomers are open to using pot for assorted conditions related to aging, but not so the old-timers.

In the end, Painter and his group solved the supply problem by building a greenhouse at an undisclosed location offsite. Said another member of the collective: “It’s just so difficult and it shouldn’t be because it makes me feel like I’m doing something criminal but I’m not.”

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Dirk Hanson, MA, is a freelance science writer and the author of The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction. He is also the author of The New Alchemists: Silicon Valley and the Microelectronics Revolution. He has worked as a business and science reporter for numerous magazines and trade publications including Wired, Scientific American, The Dana Foundation and more. He currently edits the Addiction Inbox blog. Email: [email protected]