The 'Mary Kay for marijuana' throws pot-selling parties for seniors

Sonya Yruel/Drug Policy AllianceBaby boomers make up one of the fastest growing age groups to embrace marijuana.

In California, seniors are getting together to sample weed-laced lip balms, topical ointments, and tinctures in Mary Kay-style parties at their retirement communities.

Baby boomers make up one of the fastest growing age groups to embrace marijuana. One study found a 71% increase in marijuana use among adults aged 50 and older in the last decade.

A San Francisco-based startup is capturing their interest with direct-sales events inspired by the cosmetics companies that have done the same for decades.

Octavia Wellness has 50 employees, called wellness consultants, who tour California’s senior communities — those geared towards active adults — and host parties that educate residents on the medical uses of cannabis. The startup specialises in non-smokeable materials, like oils and tinctures, that provide relief without the high.

Since the company’s pilot program launched in 2016, Octavia Wellness has expanded from a team of three to over 50 and raised over $US835,000 in a seed round of financing.

Carrie Tice, the cofounder and CEO of Octavia Wellness, started the company to help personalise the experience of buying and using marijuana for baby boomers.

Tice helped her mum, who suffers from anxiety because of her Alzheimer’s diagnosis, get a doctor’s recommendation to purchase cannabis — a requirement under California law — and visit a dispensary. “We ran into the typical problems. There were too many products to choose from, and it wasn’t clear what she needed,” Tice says. “I didn’t know where to turn.”

At a typical marketing party, Octavia Wellness shows a PowerPoint presentation on the basics of marijuana as well as a video that shows seniors talking about how they have incorporated marijuana into their medication regime. Their testimonials help tear down common myths (marijuana has to be smoked, all types of marijuana produce a high, and so on).

Then a wellness consultant — who goes through a 21-day certification program but is not required to have medical training — will set up appointments with prospective customers to show them how to get a doctor’s recommendation, suggest products, and help them make purchases through Octavia Wellness’s online platform.

Some of the tinctures are made by third party manufacturers and white-label packaged by Octavia Wellness. They include easy-to-understand instructions printed in large type.

The wellness consultants work on commission. The majority of the consultants are aged 60 and older, with some living in the same senior homes where they pitch.

Tice’s mother lives at home with family now. She is doing well and replaced Ativan, a prescription medication for anxiety, with cannabis under the supervision of her doctor.

“She’s our mascot, our guinea pig,” Tice says.

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