Once the face of a generation that challenged social conventions in the 1960s – including the use of marijuana – the Baby Boomers generation is now turning to legal marijuana in increasing numbers.
A new study from New York University has found that the number of Baby Boomers using legal marijuana has doubled in the past 10 years for at least one age group within the generation. About 9% of those surveyed between the age of 50 and 64 said they used marijuana in the last year. And 3% of those 65 years and older said they had done the same.
The Baby Boom generation is generally defined as those born between the end of World War II and 1964. About 76.4 million kids were born during this time span. Some historians have theorized that people started having babies in a move to restore normalcy after the end of the harrowing war years.
Baby Boomers and Cannabis
The study conducted research with more than 17,000 people ages 50 and older. The percentage numbers mentioned above translate into a doubling of use among those 50 to 64 years old. For those 65 and older, the use of marijuana is seven times higher than it was ten years ago.
Benjamin Han, a doctor and assistant professor in the Department of Medicine’s Division of Geriatric Medicine and Palliative Care and Department of Population Health at New York University, said that we are now “in a new era of changing attitudes around marijuana, and as stigma declines and access improves, it appears that baby boomers — many of whom have prior experience smoking marijuana — are increasingly using it.”
Familiarity might indeed be part of the trend. Of those in the survey who were between the ages of 50 and 64, more than 92% had first tried marijuana when they were 21 years old or younger.
That doesn’t mean they have been using cannabis all this time. But legalization has encouraged many of them to give marijuana a try in their older years.
Older Americans and Marijuana
It’s been widely reported that older Americans have turned to marijuana in recent years as medical marijuana became legal in many states. In many cases, it could be deal to with issues such as chronic pain.
Among those 65 or older in the study, almost 33% said they tried marijuana because it was recommended by a doctor. For those between 50 and 64, that number was 15%.
Not everything in the study painted a rosy picture. For instance, researchers found an alarming correlation between baby boomers who use marijuana and the use of tobacco and alcohol, as well as the use of illegal drugs (including opioids).
However, this is not the case for many others. To combat the problem, the NYU researchers suggested doctors screen potential marijuana patients ensure they are not addicted to drugs or misusing alcohol before they are prescribed cannabis.