They grew up being told that cannabis could be fatal, or at very least make it hard for them to think clearly. Today’s senior citizens were first-hand witnesses to a one-of-a-kind federal propaganda campaign that for decades demonized a plant now known as medicine.
It took a while, but the stigma seems to finally be wearing off. More people aged 65 and older than ever are now regularly using cannabis for a variety of reasons — relief, treatment or even just for fun.
The annual National Survey of Drug Use and Health notes the number of adults 65 or older who reported cannabis use in the previous seven days rose from 5.1 percent in 2019 to 6 percent in 2020. More seniors also reported using marijuana at any point their lifetime, from 32 percent in 2019 to 36 percent in 2020.
Researchers suggested the spike represents a cultural shift in which older adults are becoming more willingness to open up about their past use.
“Marijuana use has increased across all ages, but most significantly in older adults,” the report said. “Causes for such an increase can likely be attributed to increasing legal availability at the state level.”
The new data continues a consistent trend of increasing cannabis consumption among seniors during the past five years. The increase has happened relatively proportionately as more states have opened the door to some legal form of the plant. Access to medical cannabis patient cards have also become significantly more streamlined.
Legal adult users across the country have lauded cannabis for its healing properties, claiming the plant helps treat depression, anxiety, insomnia and pain among a number of other common ailments for older adults. Recent studies also link the plant with shrinking tumors in cancer patients, but note that more research is still needed before making a definitive connection between the two.
Medical professionals say too high a dose of THC can cause confusion and short-term memory loss for elderly users, while CBD in excess doses can interact with the metabolism of other drugs in a person’s system. While many U.S. doctors still avoid prescribing or recommending the plant due to its status as a federally illegal substance, seniors should still consult with their primary practitioner before trying cannabis products.