It’s high time seniors got into the cannabis business.
In many ways, Amy Peckham seems like a typical grandmother: The 60-year-old is talkative (especially about her four adult children, whom she raised as a stay-at-home mom), charitable (she co-founded the Peckham Family Foundation, which donates money to everything from environmental causes to arts in education); and always looking out for her family (her two daughters now work with her in the family business).
But to be blunt, there’s one big difference between Peckham, a grandmother of one, and your granny: weed. Indeed, Peckham is both the chief executive of Etain, the only women-owned medical marijuana dispensary in New York, and a “marijuana mentor” to younger people, particularly women, looking to get into or grow their cannabis business.
“It’s OK to be a senior in the THC world,” Peckham jokes, noting that younger people often come to her to discuss ideas or get advice. “There are a lot of younger participants moving and driving the industry. Many dozens of them call me ‘mom.’ ”
And she’s not the only AARP-eligible person fired up about the weed business. With his salt-and-pepper beard, Scottsdale, Ariz., and New York City addresses, and impressive business past (he’s run health-care, finance and aviation businesses), 65-year-old Steve Trenk may also seem like a surprise fit for the cannabis world.
But the father and grandfather is serious about weed. “I see it as an opportunity to do good for society as a whole while creating generational wealth,” he says. (It certainly could create wealth as spending on legal cannabis alone is projected to hit nearly $17 billion this year, and by 2022 will reach more than $31 billion, according to data from Arcview Market Research and BDS Analytics.)
Trenk is a partner in Tech Holdings, which produces brands like Quigley’s, fast-acting THC shots and topicals, and a CBD skincare and wellness line, The Gold Q, as well as an investor in about 50 marijuana-related businesses. When asked what his family thinks about his new business focus, he says with a laugh:
“Everybody thinks it’s pretty damn cool.”
While seniors may be in the minority of movers and shakers in the cannabis world, Chris Walsh, the president of Marijuana Business Daily, says he’s seeing more and more older people enter the industry from the C-suite all the way down to the retail level, where some dispensaries, particularly those with an older clientele, are hiring older salespeople.
And older people may be just what the budding industry needs to grow. That’s because older cannabis business owners may have a better sense of one the fastest-growing and potentially most lucrative groups of cannabis consumers, in part because they’re members of the group themselves: the baby boomers.
The number of baby boomers consuming legal cannabis grew by 25% in the past year, according to a report by marijuana delivery platform Eaze. (Though it’s important to note that only about 8% of those aged 50-64 and 3% of the 65 and up crowd admit they smoke marijuana, according to another report.) Boomers are also “the biggest spenders by a fairly wide margin,” the report revealed, dropping more than $95 per month on weed, which is 53% more than Gen Zers ages 21 -24 years old.
One reason their per-person spending is so high: medical marijuana may be of particular benefit to them. Research by Lauren Hersch Nicholas, an assistant professor in the Bloomberg School’s Department of Health Policy and Management at Johns Hopkins, found that 55% of older adults report one or more chronic conditions with symptoms that could be treated with medical marijuana.
And her study, which was published this year in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, revealed that the passage of medical marijuana laws seemed to help reduce pain levels and increase the number of hours worked by older adults. (Some retirement communities already seem to grasp this, offering buses that take residents to medical marijuana dispensaries.)
And the roles for older folks in cannabis aren’t just relegated to selling medical marijuana. Ed Keating, who is in his mid-50s, joint founded Cannabiz Media in 2015 to track cannabis and hemp license holders in the U.S. and Canada. He didn’t have a marijuana background — he came from a publishing and compliance background — but saw it is an opportunity to create something lucrative and new.
“I was reorg’d out of a [corporate] position and the next day jumped full steam ahead into this,” Keating says, adding that he expects to be doing this for at least another decade. And his success at this new venture is helped along, at least in part, by his age, he says:
“We have the benefit of coming to this with all those years of experience.”
This story was originally published on April 3, 2019.