The Amount of Older Americans Using Marijuana Is Getting, Um, Higher

By BRITTANY SHOOT September 12, 2018

Marijuana is apparently booming among, well, boomers. Specifically, marijuana use is becoming more prevalent among Americans over 50, according to a new study in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

The study analyzed survey responses from more than 17,000 adults over 50 and found that roughly 9% of American adults ages 50 to 64 used marijuana in the past year. Around 3% of adults over age 65 tried marijuana in that same period.

In practical terms, wider adoption of cannabis products among middle-aged and older adults certainly makes sense. In terms of medical use, marijuana is often cited as diminishing nausea and pain symptoms. And just this June, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the nation’s first-ever cannabis-based drug, Epidiolex.

But the study researchers warned of one unintended side effect of a more permissive attitude towards cannabis: It puts older pot smokers at a higher risk of other drug use. The study authors founds that compared with non-users, there was a higher prevalence within the same past-year period of nicotine dependency, cocaine use, alcohol use disorder, and misuse of prescription medications such as opioids and sedatives.

However, older adults aren’t the only demographic reaching for a roach. Younger people are also experimenting with marijuana earlier than alcohol and tobacco cigarettes, with the usage by 12- to 21-year-olds nearly doubling from 4.8% in 2004 to 8% in 2014.

Cannabis use continues to rise nationwide, especially as the legal cannabis industry expands at a rapid pace with little sign of slowing. States including Colorado and Nevada have seen multi-million-dollar and even billion-dollar profits within months of legalizing recreational marijuana use. The projections are even higher. Just in the Golden State alone, California’s marijuana economyis expected to exceed $7 billion.