10-fold increase in cannabis consumption among over-60s

Lifestyle & Culture

It’s only young stoners who are interested in cannabis reform, right? Not according to research from the University of Colorado which found a ten-fold increase in cannabis consumption among 60+ year olds in places where the herb has been legalised.

In the first study to examine how older people have responded to legalisation, researchers surveyed 136 people aged 60 or over living in 13 Colorado counties, where marijuana can be obtained for medical or recreational use.

“Older Americans are using cannabis for a lot of different reasons,” said study co-author Hillary Lum, MD, PhD, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. “Some use it to manage pain while others use it for depression or anxiety.”

The study, published in the journal Drugs & Aging, identified “a general reluctance among some to ask their doctors for a red card to obtain medical marijuana”, with respondents choosing to pay more for recreational weed.

“I think [doctors can] be a lot more open to learning about it and discussing it with their patients,” said one focus group respondent. “Because at this point I have told my primary care I was using it on my shoulder. And that was the end of the conversation. He didn’t want to know why, he didn’t want to know about effects, didn’t want to know about side effects, didn’t want to know anything.”

Some said their doctors were unable or unwilling to provide the certificate needed to obtain medical marijuana.

The study said that although participants were more receptive to ‘medical’ cannabis than ‘recreational’ cannabis, most felt the latter was comparable to alcohol consumption, and often asserted a “preference for recreational cannabis over the negative effects of alcohol”.

Some older people still felt a stigma attached to cannabis. “Some participants, for example, referred to the movie ‘Reefer Madness’ (1936) and other anti-marijuana propaganda adverts that negatively framed cannabis as immoral and illegal.”

The study added: “From a physician’s standpoint, this study shows the need to talk to patients in a non-judgmental way about cannabis. Doctors should also educate themselves about the risks and benefits of cannabis and be able to communicate that effectively to patients.”

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