Elderly Hands Holding Cannabis Plant

CBD, hemp and cannabis have all risen in prevalence and mainstream use, following a spate of legalization victories pertaining to all three. While it’s taken time for old stigmas and misinformation to subside, the use of cannabis for both medical and recreational purposes has risen in recent years. Interestingly, the fastest growing American demographic for cannabis use may be senior citizens – or individuals aged 65 and older. Dr. Hillary Lum is a researcher and assistant professor at the University of Colorado Boulder. Lum conducted a recent study on self-reported rates of cannabis use. As per her final research totals earlier this year, 3.7% of seniors reported the using cannabis in 2019 (with the frequency of use varying by individual).

Why the Rise?

The 2007 National Survey of Drug Use and Health reveals that only 0.3% of Americans 65 and older reported the use of cannabis that year. According to these statistics and the data by Lum, the use of cannabis in senior citizens has grown more than ten times in twelve short years. Presumably, the legalization of cannabis within the state of Colorado after Amendment 64 was a primary cause for increased use. With 33 states now permitting the use of cannabis to some degree, cannabis has seldom been closer to mainstream culture than at this juncture in our nation’s history.

Many seniors may have increased access to cannabis and related substances with the insurgence of dispensaries filling communities around the nation. Prior to legalization, many older Americans may have kept their interest in cannabis at bay for fear of potential repercussions. Prior to legalization, many older-Americans may have kept their interest in cannabis at bay. Dealing with drug dealers, risking jail time, and potentially suffering professional repercussions as a result of random testing was likely just too high of a risk for many middle-aged adults of their generation. However, as their retirement years take hold, concerns about smoking near impressionable young children or risking your career are no longer relevant. They say your golden years are a time just for yourself, and one in twenty five Americans are incorporating marijuana into their lives.

With the burdens of career and familial priorities lightening in later years, and the fresh availability of legal weed at hundreds of dispensaries nationwide, it seems only natural that seniors are embracing weed with new ferocity. However, the greatest reported reason for marijuana use isn’t pleasure – it’s pain. Pain relief, that is. In the University of Colorado Boulder research study, worsening health issues were the most frequently cited reason for the use of cannabis. Senior citizens experience higher levels of almost every type of health issue than younger demographics, from ailments affecting mobility like arthritis and osteoporosis, to life-threatening afflictions such as cancer. Therefore, it only seems logical that seniors would explore cannabis as a treatment option to alleviate the symptoms of their ailments with its pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties.

Grandma’s Baking Again

Many senior citizens aren’t exactly new to the use of marijuana. For the reasons we mentioned above, many older Americans took a break for a decade or more to prioritize other aspects of their lives, with which they felt cannabis would conflict.

Adele Frascella is among the group of Americans back to weed after at least a decade away. Aged 70, Frascella openly recounted her earlier experiences with cannabis. “I used to do it when I was like 18, 19, 20. And then I had a baby, got married and stopped.” Since her original re-entry to the substance, she’s admitted that CBD and cannabis can be too abrasive when smoking and has generally opts instead for edible forms of cannabis and CBD – like chocolate bars and sparkling soda.

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