Cannabis is soaring in popularity among American senior citizens as they seek to relieve joint pain or relive the hippie days of their youth.

Academics poring over responses to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health discovered a 700% rise in marijuana use among the 65-plus age group. They concluded that cannabis use is becoming more prevalent in this population and that users are also at high risk for other drug use.

Nicotine dependence, cocaine use, and misuse of prescription medications is higher among marijuana users compared to non-users.

New York University scholars Benjamin Han and Joseph Palamar performed a cross-sectional analysis of responses from 17,608 adults to the survey between 2015 and 2016 to make their conclusions. In a study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence this week, they revealed that the prevalence of past-year marijuana use was up to 2.9% of the population aged 65 and over. That represents a seven-fold increase over that time period.

The study also found that cannabis use among the 50-64 age group, the so-called Baby Boomer generation, was 9%. They discovered that nicotine dependence, cocaine use, and misuse of prescription medications is higher among marijuana users compared to non-users. “Although current users are more likely to be young adults, the Baby Boomer generation is unique as it has had more experience with marijuana compared to any generation preceding them,” said the authors.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health is run on an annual basis in all 50 states by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The Han and Palamar study hones in on the negative associations of cannabis, but does not necessarily pay heed to its medicinal properties. Dispensary owners in states where marijuana is legalized see the 65-plus generation as a potentially lucrative and relatively untapped source of future sales growth.

They say this generation consumes less frequently than average, and in smaller doses, but they can still form a significant part of the market. Retailers in Colorado, where weed is legal, are teaming up with senior living centres to spread awareness of marijuana’s effectiveness in relieving some chronic pain. Chiropractors are getting in on the act, and the older generation is expected to be big on edibles and infused beverages to protect their lungs.

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