[Cannabis] Use Growing in Popularity Among Seniors

The use of cannabis is growing in popularity among those age 65 and older, according to newly published data in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

Commenting on the findings, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “These results are hardly surprising. Many seniors likely experimented first-hand with cannabis during their youth and are now returning to it as a potential therapy to mitigate many of the health-related symptoms that come with older age, including chronic pain. Many seniors are well aware of the litany of serious adverse side-effects associated with available prescription drugs, like opioids, and they perceive medical cannabis to be a viable alternative.”

Researchers affiliated with the University of Massachusetts Medical School assessed trends in self-reported cannabis use in a national sampling of over 171,000 seniors. Consistent with prior surveys, they reported: “From 2016 to 2018, cannabis use increased for men in all age groups and in most women. … Among those aged 65 to 69 years, cannabis use in- creased from 4.3 percent to 8.2 percent in men and from 2.1 percent to 3.8 percent in women.”

Several recent studies — such as those here, here, here, and here – have determined that medical cannabis use by seniors is relatively safe and effective at mitigating pain and improving self-reported quality of life.

Armentano also acknowledged that the increase in seniors’ self-reported use of cannabis coincides with rising public support for [cannabis] legalization among older Americans. According to nationwide polling data compiled by the Pew Research Center, nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of ‘Boomers’ (those born in the United States between the years 1946 and 1964) now say that [cannabis] ought to be legal for adults. That percentage is up significantly from a decade ago, when fewer than one-in-three seniors endorsed its legalization.

He added: “This demographic shift holds important implications for [cannabis] legalization. Not only does it strengthen overall public support in favor of [cannabis] law reform, but it also galvanizes support amongst arguably the most reliable and powerful voting block — seniors. As their attitudes continue to evolve on cannabis, expect to see many politicians at the state and federal level shift their views as well.”

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NORML advocates for changes in public policy so that the responsible possession and use of [cannabis] by adults is no longer subject to criminal penalties. NORML further advocates for a regulated commercial cannabis market so that activities involving the for-profit production and retail sale of cannabis and cannabis products are safe, transparent, consumer-friendly, and are subject to state and/or local licensure. Finally, NORML advocates for additional changes in legal and regulatory policies so that those who use [cannabis] responsibly are no longer face either social stigma or workplace discrimination, and so that those with past criminal records for [cannabis]-related violations have the opportunity to have their records automatically expunged.

Find out more at norml.org and read our Fact Sheets on the most common misconceptions and myths regarding reform efforts around the country

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