Move aside, kids. And pass grandma the bong.
A new study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence on Thursday found that older Americans are increasingly turning to marijuana, particularly for medical purposes.
How big is the trend? Twice as many adults aged 50-64 (nine percent) and about seven times as many adults 65 and older (three percent) reported using cannabis in the past year, compared to a decade ago.
Researchers at New York University Medical School and NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing investigated how the baby boomer generation is approaching marijuana in the era of legalization, building on previous research that’s shown substantial increases in consumption among the middle-age and older population.
Using data from the 2015-2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the team found more evidence that boomers are cultivating a renewed appreciation for cannabis. They analyzed the survey responses of more than 17,600 adults over age 50 for the study.
And while of course not everyone sparks up for the same reason, Dr. Benjamin Han, lead author of the study, suggested that the older generation’s unique history with drug culture may be a contributing factor.
“The baby boomer generation grew up during a period of significant cultural change, including a surge in popularity of marijuana in the 1960s and 1970s,” Han said in a press release. “We’re now in a new era of changing attitudes around marijuana, and as stigma declines and access improves, it appears that baby boomers—many of whom have prior experience smoking marijuana—are increasingly using it.”
It’s still the case that younger adults are the most prevalent cannabis consumers, but as public perception of the plant has shifted, so too have the demographics.
Divergent demographic trends.
At the same time that older Americans have become more taken with tokin’, youth consumption is on the decline, according to several recent studies. For instance, a survey released last month showed significant drops in marijuana use among junior high and high school students in California, even after the state fully legalized cannabis.
That’s true of other states like Colorado that have moved to legalize, too, according to a federally-funded 2017 survey.
“We haven’t seen a big spike in consumption,” Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper told Rolling Stone in April. “The only increase in consumption is among senior citizens, which we think is either Baby Boomers coming home to roost or arthritis and the aches and pains of growing older—people finding that marijuana is better pain solution than opioids or other things.”
Photo courtesy of the Drug Policy Alliance, Sonya Yruel.