Seniors are the Fastest-Growing Group of Cannabis Users in Canada

Even accounting for growth, seniors still smoke less marijuana overall.

Senior smoking weed iStock / Deagreez

Recreational cannabis has been legal across Canada since 2018. The fastest-growing group of cannabis users in the country? Senior citizens. This is according to the results of a recent data analysis, released just last week by Statistics Canada. Results of the National Cannabis Survey showed that “while 10 percent of cannabis consumers aged 25 to 44 were new users in the second and third quarters of 2019, this was the case for more than one-quarter (27 percent) of cannabis consumers aged 65 and older.”

Even accounting for the recent growth, senior citizens still consume marijuana at a much lower rate compared to their younger counterparts. In fact, only 7% of people over the age of 65 are cannabis users, with 10% of those between age 45 and 64, and at least 25% of adults ages 25 to 44 reporting cannabis use, either medical or recreational.

Older people are much less likely to use cannabis recreationally, perhaps due to the stigma that greatly affected earlier generations and remains an issue today. According to the survey results, medical use was the most common reason cited for cannabis use among seniors, with 52% of adults over 65 “using cannabis exclusively for medical reasons.”

The survey also demonstrated that those over the age of 65 are much less likely to obtain cannabis illegally. Legalization has clearly had a significant impact on the older population and their decision-making when it comes to marijuana – most are first-time users. In addition, compared to the younger age groups, seniors are also less likely to use cannabis on a daily basis.

Thanks to legalization, the increased availability of recreational cannabis in local dispensaries has allowed seniors, many of which suffer from qualifying medical conditions, to partake without worrying about suffering legal consequences, a barrier which likely prevented many from indulging before.

Many of the seniors now using cannabis were previously reliant on pharmaceutical drugs and addictive painkillers. Some are more comfortable trying cannabidiol (CBD) first; CBD is the non-psychoactive component of cannabis, responsible for its anti-inflammatory effects, unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the component associated with marijuana and ‘getting high.’

Back in 2017, in an interview with the Canadian publication, The Globe and Mail, Hope Bobowski said that initially she thought, “No way, I’m not having anything to do with cannabis.”

“You didn’t go around drugs.”

Faced with the alternative of more prescriptions from her doctor, however, Hope decided to try CBD oil, and it worked for her: the next day, “there was no pain.”

In a recent Forbes article, said Alana Coleman, NP, “CBD helps to reduce those negative side-effects associated with THC. It reduces the psychoactive effects, and certainly, in older adults we are worried about that: it increases their risk for falls, especially for people with a history of dementia. For people with osteoporosis, falls can be quite devastating. So[,] starting with the CBD-dominant products can reduce those risks.”

According to Dr. Jess Goodman, MD, “[Cannabis] can help people with discomfort in a way that reduces the need for narcotic meds, and I guess that holds for the oils and other delivery vehicles as well. Alanna and I have been able to see very dramatic reductions and even elimination of opiate meds and anti-psychotic meds in the senior population, especially the long-term care population.”

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