More Seniors Are Using Marijuana Than Ever Before

By McCarton Ackerman 10/12/16

Older Americans are turning to marijuana to side step the harsh side effects of prescription medications. 

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More Seniors Are Using Marijuana Than Ever Before

Marijuana isn’t just for high school and college students anymore. New data shows that senior citizens are using weed at rapidly increasing rates and could soon become the pot-using generation of America.

The latest research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that regular marijuana use among those between ages 55 and 64 is up by 455% since 2002, while use among seniors over age 65 jumped 333% during that same period. After finding it difficult to manage their symptoms from chronic illness or pain due to the harsh side effects of prescription medications they’ve been given by their doctors, LA Weekly reports that many older Americans are turning to marijuana as an alternative medicine. 

“A lot of our patients want to try an alternative medicine that is going to treat their pain but not interfere with their daily lives,” said Lucas, who co-founded Green Soldiers Healers Collective in Los Angeles with his mother, Denise. She added that “sometimes there is resistance because they feel [cannabis] is a drug, but then we break down the prescription medications they’re already taking and they realize how toxic those can be.”

The mother-son duo have noticed an increasing trend in first-time senior citizen customers who have plenty of concerns and questions about marijuana. They test edibles for sugar levels to help ease concerns among older patients who suffer from diabetes. For elderly or frail patients who can’t run the risk of falling or passing out as a result of being high, they typically recommend non-psychoactive cannabidiol products such as topical treatment.

But when dealing with a generation that was largely taught to follow doctors' orders, it can be difficult to get them to ask questions and become an active participant in their care. To help address this, Denise started a meet-up group for seniors in Southern California for people who are interested in exploring cannabis. Although in-person attendees are still sparse, more than 100 people have joined the online group.

“They’re not used to talking about their cannabis use,” she admitted. “We’re still very much in the gray when it comes to medical marijuana, but slowly more people are coming into the light.”

In Florida, seniors are the biggest advocates for legal medical marijuana. A Quinnipiac University poll conducted in the spring of 2014 found that 84% of Florida voters who supported the Florida Right to Medical Marijuana Initiative (known as Amendment 2) were older than 65.

“For the most part, it’s not a controversial topic,” said Ben Pollara, campaign manager for United For Care, which landed the issue on the ballot. “If their doctor recommends a particular treatment plan, whether it’s a medication regimen, a new diet, exercise, yoga or medical marijuana, they should be able to follow their doctor’s orders without being treated like a criminal.”

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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