The newest customers of Vela, a cannabis shop in Sodo, stand in a circle in the corner of the store, eagerly poring over their purchases.
"I got the cream," says one.
"I got the weed!" says another giddily.
It's a special day. These senior citizens are part of a field trip organized by Village Concepts, an assisted-living facility in Gig Harbor. They have previously toured a farm in Skagit Valley, various museums, and a manufacturing plant where Boeing parts are made. Going on tours helps them earn "credits" for a program called Village Concepts University.
"The goal," explains Tracy Willis, the director of corporate development at Village Concepts, "is to keep seniors engaged in the greater community, learning about pop culture or current events, so that they don't feel like they're isolated from new information."
But this is their first time at a marijuana store. Are they excited to be here?
"Excited to be here? We're enchanted," says Maria Scott, 91. "I didn't even know this existed."
According to state rules, marijuana growers and retailers must be separate companies. But there is a grow lab right next door to Vela called Field Day, and there is a window in the wall between Vela and Field Day where Vela's customers can see the indoor grow.
Scott is gazing with wonder into Field Day's grow room, its windows displaying hydroponic setups for strains like Green Crack and Acapulco Gold. "It's wonderful!" she adds.
"We're so old-fashioned, you know," says Marta Knifton, 71. "We just didn't know that things like this went on, and that there are so many different types of marijuana!"
If recent trends continue, they won't be the only senior citizens discovering the joys of Jah. A December 2016 research report published by the Society for the Study of Addiction shows that "between the years of 2006–2007 and 2012–2013, the number of people in the age group 65 and older who admit to using cannabis has increased by no less than 250%." And a recent article in the New York Times cited a rising number of nursing and retirement-home residents who are turning to cannabis to relieve their aches and pains.
Senior citizens are not just warming up to the idea of cannabis, they're welcoming it in spades, despite the stigma that existed in years past.
"I mean, we've always kind of thought of marijuana as a bad drug," says Barbara Krause, 83 (who says she's never tried weed but would "just always have a cocktail or two").
"I lived in Berkeley for a little while, and when I was walking down the street, you could really smell the stuff," adds Scott. "And half of us didn't know what it was; we weren't educated that way. I just knew it was something that we weren't even supposed to smell."
The catalyst that sparked these seniors' cannabis curiosity was a viral video about a man with Parkinson's disease, who used CBD for the first time in his life (under a doctor's care).
"Our residents watched the video in our activity," explains Willis, "and they saw that his tremors were gone and he could speak again. And they started saying, 'Wait, what? What's this all about?'" For the seniors, learning about CBD was a big deal, says Willis. Finding out that CBD wasn't psychoactive but could help with their symptoms was a game changer.
"At this stage of our lives," explains Ilene Cohn, 84, lifting herself out of her chair and into her walker, "we all have pain. So there's nobody here that came with us that is free of pain."
"I mean, we need it! We need some help sometimes," says Verna Gregg, 88, who suffered from a stroke a few years ago and also has arthritis.
"And it means less drugs, you're taking less medication, it's not a pill that has side effects," says Knifton. "But doctors aren't recommending things like this."
"Why did they keep it so quiet!?" Cohn asks. "I think it's about time! Why did they wait so long?"
"Yeah, why wait?" Knifton says, shaking her head. "All the kids knew about it!"
"But it's okay now!" Scott says. Then she adds enthusiastically, "So now it's our turn!"