Cannabis and Older Persons Study

By all accounts, the intersection between America’s aging population and cannabis is growing and becoming more complex. The rate of past-year marijuana use among persons over 50 grew from 1.1 in 2000 to 2.8% in 2010, and already has surpassed projections for the year 2020. While much of this growth has been attributed to the more tolerant baby boom cohort entering old age, some evidence suggests the increasing use of marijuana among older persons is driven by period and age effects as well. On one hand, the expansion of medical marijuana laws (MMLs) and state medical marijuana programs has been associated with increased use among older adults. On the other hand, persons over 65 increasingly acquire age-related health problems such as arthritis, cancer, and glaucoma, and are increasingly likely to experience chronic, persistent pain and other symptoms considered amendable to cannabis. While prior work has been illuminating, these efforts only provide glimpses into this imminent public health challenge.

There are several gaps in what we currently know about older persons and cannabis. What benefits do older adults experience in taking cannabis? Does taking cannabis lead to misuse of other substances or stopping the use of other prescription medications? Indeed, given how many age-related conditions and symptoms are thought to be amendable to medical marijuana, it might be expected that its use among older adults may increase as a substitute for legally prescribed medications. At the current time, we know of no formal effort to field a survey from a representative sample of older adults to collect this information.

Our over-all goal is to establish a research program that examines the intersection between America’s aging population and cannabis, a research program organized by the central hypothesis that individual outcomes (e.g., taking cannabis) are shaped by age (i.e., health needs), period (i.e., legalization) and cohort effects (e.g., more tolerant attitudes). The objective of this project is to take the first step in building this research program by creating a comprehensive, efficient survey instrument and developing an effective sampling strategy.


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News Updates

This fall, students at Washington State University’s Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine will for the first time receive instruction on medicinal marijuana as part of their core classwork.
The waiting room at NiaMedic Healthcare & Research Services looked just like every other doctor’s office at the Saddleback Medical Center in California’s Laguna Hills: unflattering overhead lighting, landscape paintings and a smiling person in scrubs behind the reception desk.
As more states legalize medical and recreational cannabis, the number of older Americans using the drug is expected to rise, said Dr. Hillary Lum, assistant professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and co-author of a study published last month in the journal Drugs and Aging that examined pot use among Americans over age 60.
The new nonpartisan group, called Mental Health for US, aims to push candidates in both parties to be more vocal about their policy ideas to improve mental health care — particularly as the 2020 election increasingly centers on health care issues like expanding Medicare or lowering the price of prescription drugs.
Johnson, 72, suffers from lupus, Sjogren's, fibromyalgia and scoliosis. For the last year, she's participated in the state's medical marijuana program. But up until then, like many people in her age group, she'd never used marijuana.
In the is first state-wide investigation of cannabis use among older Americans and the outcomes they experience, it is found that cannabis use among older adults is growing faster than any other age group but many report barriers to getting medical marijuana, a lack of communication with their doctors and a lingering stigma attached to the drug,