Boomers and Buds: How Elderly Cannabis Users are Shaping Legalization
Every single day 10,000 Americans turn 65 years old, according to the Pew Research Center. This means that senior citizens make up roughly 13% of the population in the United States.
Considering the fact that many of today’s senior citizens came up in the 1960’s and 70’s, perhaps it should come as no surprise that our elders are quickly coming around when it comes to cannabis reform.
Despite their roots rising right on through the free love hippy era, we must also remember that they were raised, and raised their own kids, on the most ignorant and uninformed propaganda about pot that our society has ever seen.
The unearned negative stigma surrounding the cannabis plant was enough to keep a significant portion of our seniors away from weed for the majority of their adulthood. But now as times change and cannabis legalization and normalization sweeps the country, more and more of them are recalibrating their thinking on reefer making America’s senior citizens the fastest growing segment of new cannabis users in the country.
So now we are seeing two major factions forming within this demographic:
1. Those that have never tried cannabis before but are intrigued by potential health benefits
2. Those mentioned earlier in the piece that may have been down with the dope 40-50 years ago, but had shelved it for years in favor of career or family obligations
While the path that leads them to medical marijuana may vary from person to person, one thing that far too many seniors have in common is a term called polypharmacy, or, the prescription of multiple drugs.
The chain reaction of side effects that these Big Pharma concoctions can induce can lead to an elderly person being forced to take a regimen of pills every day, each one ingested to help mitigate the detriments of the last.
Blood pressure pills lead to thyroid problems.
Thyroid pills destroy the patient’s liver.
Liver pills damage the pancreas…
…and the chain reaction continues – not healing, but exacerbating health problems.
HERE COMES CANNABIS
With medical marijuana laws now passed in 33 states plus Washington, D.C., more American seniors than ever enjoy safe access to legal, healing, cannabis products.
Not only is it easier to obtain, but the loosening of the law has also begun to erode the traditionally negative stigma surrounding cannabis to the point where more and more senior citizens are beginning to openly discuss cannabis use with their health care providers.
In 2016 at a long-term elderly care facility in the Bronx by the name of The Hebrew House, 10 resident seniors agreed to participate in a cannabis related study and share their experience with researchers.
In the study which was published this month in the Journal of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine, the participants reported a noticeable drop in the severity of chronic pain, a reduction of opioid usage, and other tangible health benefits.
Those studied consisted of three males and seven females who ranged in age from 62 to 100.
Six of them qualified due to a chronic pain diagnosis.
Two had Parkinson’s.
One fit in both of those categories.
The 10th suffered from a seizure disorder.
The drop in pain severity due to the known anti-inflammatory benefits of cannabis use led directly to the reduction in opioid dependence, according to the researchers. The patients with Parkinson’s also reported improvement with rigidity, while the 10th patient showed a “marked reduction” in the occurrence of seizures dropping from an average of two episodes per week down to 1-2 per month.
While a sample size of 10 is relatively small, these results are a big deal and they mirror the anecdotal and science-backed conclusions that we see in society at large.
Another study, this one posted on WebMD, upped the sample size to 150 seniors aged 61-70 and the findings there were just as remarkable.
- Over half (54%) of the participants in the study were female
- 45% used a vape pen and cannabis concentrates
- 28% used cannabis-infused pill capsules
- 21% of those surveyed said they used cannabis once per day to help alleviate their symptoms
- 23% said they used it twice per day
- 39% said they used it three or more times per day
- Roughly 50% of those surveyed were urged to consider medical marijuana by their own doctor
- 25% were convinced by a family member or a friend
- And 91% would recommend it to someone else – that’s the key right there
POSITIVE PEER PRESSURE
You will not find many of today’s senior citizens scouring the pages of Weedmaps, or trolling Reddit posts, or keeping up with the latest hype and/or drama on social media. Instead they operate the old fashioned way… they actually speak to each other in person. They relay their experiences back and forth and form their worldview based on this narrow perception.
While this often just contributes to their crankiness, it seems to be working in favor of cannabis reform as today’s elderly have become attuned to focus on the word of their fellow seniors while finally blocking out the last ditch screeches of prohibition propagandists.
While seniors have reported resounding successes when adding cannabis to their lifestyle, there are some complaints coming out of these studies as well – ones that we are all far too familiar with.
The most common complaint amongst today’s tokin’ seniors is sleepiness after consuming cannabis.
Hell, we’ve all been there.
In most cases, it’s simply a matter of finding a new strain. As the industry moves away from the simple categories of “Indica” vs. “Sativa” more focus is placed on specific cannabinoid and terpene profiles found in certain strains.
Finding that perfect combination that jiggles all the right receptors will be a challenge for today’s seniors but there is more information and education available than ever before to help steer them in the right direction.
As the WebMD study showed, 45% of seniors studied used a vape pen and cannabis concentrates to medicate. The science behind cannabinoid extraction is evolving by leaps and bounds these days and we are – for better or for worse – on the verge of lab-balanced extracts and consumables that will allow the end user to dial in specific requests for precise cannabinoid and terpene ratios that work well for them.
That brings us to the next most common gripe that grams and gramps had about grams of ganja – the price.
“In our day, we walked uphill in the snow both ways to buy OG Kush for a nickel!” they say… (probably)
But seriously, because of the fact that cannabis is still trapped unfairly as a Schedule I drug at the federal level there are no U.S.-based insurance companies willing or able to cover the costs of medical marijuana.
A combination of rising tolerance levels along with rising prices in the legal market becomes a legit concern for folks on a fixed income or a tight budget for meds.
TOP DOWN RELIEF
In an unofficial study of another large group of ornery senior citizens, in the past five years or so we have witnessed one of the biggest swings in popularity of pot and it has come from our nation’s capital where many of the geriatric members of the U.S. House and Senate have shown a complete about-face on the topic.
Even the former ultra-Conservative Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner who famously declared in 2011 (when he was in power and could actually make a difference) that he was “unalterably opposed” to the legalization of the plant had an epiphany once he left D.C. and now sits on the board of Acreage Holdings, a cannabis distributor active in 11 states.
We already told you that seniors talk to other seniors and form their opinions based on those discussions.
One other thing you can always count on a senior citizen to do is to vote.
Politicians know this well and that is why every election season we see pandering wannabe winners bend over backward to try to impress a demographic destined to die off.
But as cannabis use and cannabis reform gain momentum in this highly influential group, fence-sitting lawmakers will find the political cover they need to help us advance our cause.
Before too long maybe the meme will be old people telling the rest of us to get ON their grass!