Baby Boomers and Medical Cannabis

Seniors are increasingly passing the pipe. About 9% of US adults between the ages of 50 and 64 have used marijuana at least once during the survey year, while 3% of those over 65 have done so, new research finds.

For middle-age adults, the percentage of cannabis users has doubled over nearly a decade, according to the study, published Thursday in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence. Older adults have seen a seven-fold increase in that period.

Though marijuana use is increasing among older Americans, “most of these people are not first-time users,” said Joseph Palamar, senior study author and an associate professor in the Department of Population Health at New York University Langone Medical Center.

“I don’t think we need to worry about millions of older people trying weed for the first time,” he said. “At least not yet.”

Palamar examined data from 17,608 adults 50 and older who took the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has conducted this survey each year since 1971 in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Analyzing survey data from 2015-16 and 2006-07, the researchers compared marijuana users and non-users within and across age groups both past and present.

Prevalence of past-year marijuana use was 9% among middle-age adults and 2.9% among older adults, and past-month use prevalence was 5.7% among middle-age adults and 1.7% among older adults, according to the report.

Baby boomers have more experience with marijuana than previous generations, the study authors said. More than half (almost 55%) of middle-age adults have used marijuana at some point in their lives, while over a fifth (about 22%) of older adults have done so, Han and Palamar found.