Legalization has attracted a growing number of older Americans to use marijuana, but little is known about how exactly this demographic is approaching cannabis in the 21st century.
A new study published this month in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society attempts to fill in that knowledge gap, surveying Colorado residents over 65 to learn how older generations use and obtain cannabis in a fully legal state.
About 350 people completed the surveys, and of those, 32 percent reported using marijuana at least once in their lifetime. Sixteen percent of respondents were considered “current” consumers because they reported using marijuana in the years since Colorado legalized for adult-use in 2012. Those individuals were asked a series of follow up questions about things like frequency of use and how they obtained cannabis.
The responses painted an interesting picture about how full legalization seems to ease access to cannabis for medical use.
Most respondents said that marijuana was a helpful treatment option for anxiety, depression, sleeping problems, pain and appetite stimulation, among other ailments. But while 26 percent said they had a recommendation for medical cannabis, 67 percent “obtained marijuana recreationally.”
“Although some respondents had a prescription for marijuana, most purchased it without a prescription for a variety of medical conditions common to primary care (pain, anxiety, depression, insomnia), the study authors wrote. “Thus, in states with recreationally available marijuana, older adults may be using marijuana in addition to their prescribed regimens, so it is important to inquire about marijuana use regardless of age.”
Other takeaways from the study: older Americans seem to gravitate toward edibles (42 percent), compared to smoking cannabis (29 percent). Lotions and oils were also favorites among respondents.
In terms of medical uses, the “most common symptom targeted was pain (64 percent), followed by sleep (38 percent), anxiety (24 percent), depression (22 percent), and appetite stimulation (18 percent).” And almost half of current marijuana consumers included in the survey said cannabis “targeted multiple symptoms.”
“This is a population that, in many cases, had firsthand experience with cannabis during their young adulthood, and have now returned to cannabis in older age,” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said in a press release. “Seniors are turning to cannabis as a potential option to provide symptomatic relief while potentially avoiding the dramatic side-effects associated with other medications and improving their quality of life.”
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (R) made a similar observation in an April interview.
“We haven’t seen a big spike in consumption,” Hickenlooper told Rolling Stone. “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.”
Of course, the study’s limitations have to be taken into consideration. The sample size is relatively small and, as the study authors acknowledge, there could be response bias because the surveys were completed on a voluntary basis.
“As recreational marijuana becomes more available in the United States, it will be increasingly important to understand the specific dose and route of marijuana used, as well as short- and long-term health effects,” the study concluded.
“Thus, steps toward further understanding should include directed focus groups of active marijuana users and randomized clinic trials comparing marijuana with usual care for the most commonly targeted symptoms and conditions.”
Photo courtesy of WeedPornDaily.
Scientists Actually Did A Study To Confirm That Marijuana Causes The Munchies
Science has confirmed that marijuana really does cause the munchies.
More precisely, a new study found that sales of commonly munched on products like ice cream, cookies and chips tend to go up after states legalize cannabis.
To do so, a team of researchers developed complicated mathematical formulas like the one featured below and analyzed a trove of retail scanner data.
The study indicates that the “widespread urban myth” that cannabis stimulates hunger and drives people to gorge on goodies is a myth no longer. The researchers looked at retail scanner data in more than 2,000 counties across the U.S. from 2006 to 2016 to determine whether states that legalize marijuana for adult use experience increases in the sale of high-calorie food items.
Past studies on the munchies have relied on data that’s “correlational and indirect,” they wrote. This paper, meanwhile, tested the hypothesis by factoring in the “differences in timing of the legalization of recreational marijuana across states” and specifically comparing “retail food purchases for the subsample of contiguous counties across [recreational marijuana law] and non-[recreational marijuana law] shared borders only.”
The study found causal evidence that legalizing cannabis was associated with higher so-called “junk food purchases.
Shortly after a state’s legal marijuana system became effective, average monthly sales of ice cream, cookies and chips jumped 3.1 percent, 4.1 percent and 5.3 percent, respectively. And that was the case even after the researchers accounted for “state- and pair-specific time trends.”
“The increase in sales starts at the time of the legislation becomes effective,” the study authors wrote. “The effect slightly decreases in the semesters thereafter for ice cream and chips, but not for cookies.”
That’s probably a welcome finding for Girl Scouts in Colorado. The state’s chapter recently lifted a ban on selling cookies outside of “adult-oriented businesses” such as marijuana stores, where the scouts can rest assured they’ll find a hungry customer base.
Study Shows That Bees Like Hemp, And That’s Great News For The Environment
Farmers (and Sen. Mitch McConnell) aren’t the only ones who are excited about hemp. According to a recent study, the crop also attracts a variety of bees—and that can help inform ecologically sustainable agriculture practices.
For the study, published this month in the journal Biomass and Bioenergy, researchers at Colorado State University set up 10 traps at industrial hemp fields in northern Colorado and collected bees over the course of five days during peak flowering season.
There are few other crops that pollinate in the region during the same timeframe, so the team wanted to know whether the non-psychoactive cannabis cousin of marijuana represented “a potentially valuable source of pollen for foraging bees,” which play a critical role in maintaining “sustainable productivity in natural and agricultural ecosystems.”
When the researchers looked at their collection, they found almost 2,000 bees from 23 different bee genera. Most of those (38 percent) were classic honeybees, but there were also specialized genera such as Melissodes bimaculata and Peponapis pruinosa that turned up in surprisingly “high proportions.”
The sample also indicated that hemp flowers are uniquely attractive to bees because previous reports looking at bee abundance and diversity for crops like genetically modified canola flowers didn’t produce the same volume or variety.
“Industrial hemp can play an important role in providing sustained nutritional options for bees during the cropping season.”
The study could prove helpful as ecologists attempt to address declining bee populations. The insects “continue to face debilitating challenges due to a number of different stressors,” the researchers wrote, but chief among them is the overall health of their respective habitats.
Finding a suitable pollinating crop to improve their habitats is, therefore, critical to the lives of bees and the ecosystems they occupy. Hemp “can thus be an ecologically valuable crop whose flowers are attractive to managed honey bees and a wide range of wild bees,” the researchers concluded.
“In addition, access to crucial phytochemicals through pollen and nectar from diverse plant sources is important for improved survival and pathogen tolerance in honey bees,” the team wrote. “Further studies analyzing the nutritive value of hemp pollen, would provide strong evidence in support of the ecological benefits.”
But the study also includes a warning: as hemp cultivation expands, which experts expect it will significantly since it has recently been federally legalized, there will be an increased risk of insect pests infecting the crop. And so the researchers said they “strongly urge that the information generated in this study on the diversity and abundance of bees on hemp be used to develop an integrated pest management plan designed to protect pollinators while controlling pests.”
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.
States With Legal Medical Marijuana Have Lower Teen Use Rates, Large-Scale Study Finds
Contrary to often-expressed fears of marijuana legalization opponents, teens living in states that allow medical cannabis are actually less likely to use the drug compared to those in non-legal states.
That’s the result of a new study published in The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse.
Researchers at Boston College looked at national youth drug surveys from 1999 to 2015—a data set that involved more than 860,000 adolescents across the United States. They investigated how self-reported marijuana use changed in states that have either decriminalized cannabis possession or legalized it for medical purposes.
And while opponents of legalization have long argued that loosening marijuana laws would drive more youth to consume cannabis, the study showed the opposite. The enactment of medical cannabis laws was associated with 1.1 percentage point reduction in marijuana use among teens.
“We found that for every group of 100 adolescents, one fewer will be a current user of marijuana following the enactment of medical marijuana laws,” study author Rebekah Levine Coley said in a press release.
That decline was even more pronounced within certain subgroups. For example, 3.9 percent fewer black adolescents and 2.7 percent fewer Hispanic adolescents used marijuana in legal medical cannabis states.
The trend also held true after researchers accounted for factors such as state demographics and economic trends. What’s more, the reductions in youth marijuana use were more significant the longer a state had a medical cannabis system in effect.
“Some people have argued that decriminalizing or legalizing medical marijuana could increase cannabis use amongst young people, either by making it easier for them to access, or by making it seem less harmful,” Coley said. “However, we saw the opposite effect.”
“We were not able to determine why this is, but other research has suggested that after the enactment of medical marijuana laws, youths’ perceptions of the potential harm of marijuana use actually increased. Alternatively, another theory is that as marijuana laws are becoming more lenient, parents may be increasing their supervision of their children, or changing how they talk to them about drug use.”
States that have simply decriminalized cannabis possession did not experience the same reductions in youth marijuana use, the study also found. There were slight declines in usage among 14-year-olds and Hispanic youth, but the broader reductions were only seen in medical marijuana states.
Photo courtesy of Nicholas C. Morton.