Senior Health

12/2/2020 | By Terri L. Jones

In November 2020, Richmond, VA opened its first medical marijuana dispensary. One Richmond baby boomer, whom we’ll call John, smoked pot in his teens to get high and now vapes the herb to help with back and joint pain and relax before bed. Imagining this day back when he was first smoking “behind the bleachers” in high school, he proclaimed it to be a “momentous occasion!”

Cannabis Use in Seniors Is Growing Like a Weed

This boomer’s enthusiasm isn’t isolated. According to a study published in August 2020 in the Annals of Internal Medicine, marijuana use is on the rise among U.S. baby boomers, particularly with men 60 and over. The study, which observed adults ages 55 and up from 2016 to 2018, found that 12.6 percent of men ages 60 to 64 had used the substance in the past 30 days, up from 8.9 percent in 2016. Although use of the substance was lower in men ages 65 to 74, their use also nearly doubled during this same time period. There was less change noted for boomer women who used it.

Easier Access

This study didn’t research the reasons behind the growing marijuana use among older adults; however, it’s believed that easier access plays a big part. Thirty-six states have now legalized cannabis for medicinal use and 15 states for recreational use. That means that boomers who choose to use cannabis no longer have to seek it out from inconvenient or potentially dangerous sources. John, for example, used to get cannabis from a friend’s son who lived in Colorado. Now all he has to do is head to the local dispensary and show his medical marijuana card.

Medical Claims

Cannabis is also purported to treat a variety of health issues experienced by this age group – from easing pain, anxiety, and depression to improving sleep. Research on marijuana’s benefits as well as interactions with other substances is still limited; however, claims of its medicinal value likely account for more and more boomers and seniors choosing to light up instead of adding more tablets to their pill organizers.

Vanishing Stigma

Despite these growing numbers of marijuana use among older adults, it’s important to remember that this generation, who grew up during the ’60s and ’70s, is no stranger to it. It could be that these “new users” are simply resuming an old habit. The other possibility is they never stopped using cannabis and are now just more comfortable admitting to it.

John, who was cautious about disclosing his cannabis use before Virginia legalized medical marijuana this year, now has started listing cannabis with his other medications.

“The times they are a-changin’,” sang Bob Dylan in 1964, the very last year of the boomer generation. And boomers think it’s about time!

Terri L. Jones

Terri L. Jones has been writing educational and informative topics for the senior industry for over ten years, and is a frequent and longtime contributor to Seniors Guide. She also writes for many other local magazines and publications.

Terri L. Jones