Presidential candidates are debating the merits of cannabis legalization, and some, including Democratic frontrunner Bernie Sanders have already said that they will legalize cannabis throughout the entire United States via executive order. As the debate over national cannabis legalization enters the mainstream, it seems that cannabis use is rising among surprising population sets.
A recently released study reports that cannabis use among those aged 65 and older nearly doubled between 2015 and 2018. The number of seniors who said they used cannabis in the last year rose from 2.4% in 2015 to 4.2% in 2018. The most recent numbers show senior cannabis use has increased six-fold since 2006 when only 0.6% of those over the age of 65 confirmed they had consumed cannabis products in the last year.
Factors Influencing Rise In Senior Cannabis Use
The undeniable key factor contributing to the rise in senior cannabis use is the push to legalize cannabis at local and state levels. As of 2020, 33 states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for medicinal use and 11 states along with D.C. have legalized recreational cannabis. Obviously, legalization makes cannabis far safer to obtain and more accessible for older Americans who previously found the means of purchasing cannabis too dangerous or difficult. Legalization also drastically increases the variability of cannabis products making it far easier for seniors to choose a product that fits their specific lifestyle or potential medical needs.
Another likely cause for the sharp rise of cannabis use among seniors is a growing affinity for it among all Americans. Cannabis is no longer seen as a dangerous “gateway drug” and many people recognize that it has therapeutic uses and is not a dangerous drug. A Pew Research Poll found that, “fewer than one-in-ten (8%) prefer to keep marijuana illegal in all circumstances.”
Don’t Expect To See Numbers Drop
Personal views on the legalization of cannabis have a direct correlation to an increase in cannabis use among larger populations. Still, while the number of aged 65 and older Americans using cannabis nearly doubled in 4 years, the overall numbers are relatively low. The previously mentioned study found that only 4.2% of seniors have used cannabis in the last year. Comparatively, the department of Health and Human Services found that 22% of “college students and young adults” had used cannabis in the last 30 days.
The sharp increase in senior cannabis use will most likely continue in 2020 and beyond. As more U.S. states legalize cannabis, the stigma associated with its consumption will fade among those aged 65 and older. A reduction in the stigma tied to using cannabis will almost certainly make it a more appealing product to older Americans who have lived through the whole of the war on drugs and the anti-cannabis propaganda associated with it.
Lane is based in Southern California and is a content curator for Medical Marijuana 411. He focuses his research into finding informative stories that can help medical marijuana patients better understand their diverse medicine.