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

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 increased from 4.3 percent to 8.2 percent in men and from 2.1 percent to 3.8 percent in women.”

Commenting on the findings, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “These results are to be expected. 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 associated 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.”

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.

The increase in seniors’ self-reported use of cannabis coincides with rising public support for marijuana 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 marijuana 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.

Armentano added: “This demographic shift holds important implications for marijuana legalization. Not only does it strengthen overall public support in favor of marijuana 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.”

Full text of the study, “Recent trends in cannabis use in older Americans,” appears in Annals of Internal Medicine.

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