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Bongs for Boomers!

Nearly 13% of Americans 50 and Older Admit to Smoking Weed

And Most Have Tried At Least Once

A new study published just over a week ago in the online journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence suggests that the tide may be turning in the way older Americans view marijuana.

According to the study, which examined data on more than 17,600 adults aged 50 and over who’d taken the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the number of baby boomers who’ve used marijuana over the last decade has doubled. Overall, nearly 10% of adults aged 50 to 64 have used marijuana within the past year, with 55% of adults in this age range having tried the drug at some point in their lives. Meanwhile, 2.9% of adults aged 65 and up have used pot within the past year, with 22% admitting to trying it at least once.

It’s not hard to understand why weed is so popular in the United States.  According to Gallup’s national survey in October 2017, an all-time record 64% of respondents favored the idea of legalizing Cannabis nationally.  A separate survey conducted by the independent Quinnipiac University in April found that an overwhelming 93% of Americans support the idea of physicians being able to prescribe medical cannabis to patients.  With favorability this strong, it’s no wonder that weed is finding its roots in more than half of all U.S. states.

But there have also been pockets of resistance to Cannabis.  Age typically has played a role in consistently having a more negative view of Cannabis than younger and more liberal generations.  Generally speaking, the older the age group, the less favorability toward pot.  This is why it’s been suggested that the younger generation is going to be critical to the success of the marijuana industry over the long term.

The researchers who presented the study have yet to identify concrete conclusions as to why marijuana usage among boomers is on the rise, though there are a few theories.  One theory is that since Cannabis was prevalent through the 1960s and 1970s, the boomers, who were in their teens and twenties during this time, are already familiar with the effects and therefore less scared of the “unknown.”  Boomers also avoided the propaganda of the 1930s and 50s, when the usage of “Marihuana” was linked to unprecedented violence, and then susceptibility to Communism.

“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,” said Benjamin Han, MD, MPH, lead author and assistant professor at NYU Langone Health. “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.”

“Marijuana has been shown to have benefits in treating certain conditions that affect older adults, including neuropathic pain and nausea,” Han added. “However, certain older adults may be at heightened risk for adverse effects associated with marijuana use, particularly if they have certain underlying chronic diseases or are also engaged in unhealthy substance use.”

Although marijuana use is increasing among the country’s older generation, Baby Boomers are not the only Americans who love weed. A separate study by the University of Michigan has found that pot use among America’s young adults has remained at an all-time high. This study, which looked at data from 2016-2017, found that 21% of undergraduate students aged 19-21 reported using weed within the past 30 days, a significant increase from similar self-reported data collected in the 1980s and ’90s.

Photos by iStock, iStock, and YouTube.

Adapted from articles written Sean Williams, published by The Motley Fool on September 15, 2018, and by Chris Moore, published by MerryJane.com on September 7, 2018. 

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