Smoking weed is becoming increasingly cool amongst baby boomers, with the number of 50 to 64-year olds who report using cannabis doubling in the past decade, according to a new study from researchers at New York University and the Rory Meyers College of Nursing, out Thursday. The past few years have seen a growing acceptance of cannabis for both medical and recreational purposes, with an increasing number of states legalizing its use. The paper’s authors say that the baby boomer population — which has more experience with drugs than previous generations — offers a unique research opportunity.
The study, published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, found that between 2007 and 2016, the percentage of people aged 50 to 64 who said they consumedcannabis rose from 4.5 to 9 percent. And for people over 65, the change was even greater: in 2007, just .4 percent of seniors reported using cannabis. By 2016, that number had risen to 3 percent.
“The baby boomer generation grew up during a period of significant cultural change, including a surge in popularity of marijuana in the 1960s and 1970s,” Benjamin Han, an assistant professor in medicine and geriatric care at New York University, and the paper’s lead author, said in a statement. “We're now in a new era of changing attitudes around marijuana,” Han added, “and as stigma declines and access improves, it appears that baby boomers — many of whom have prior experience smoking cannabis — are increasingly using it. The researchers did find it a bit worrying that there appeared to be a correlation between cannabis misuse of other substances, including alcohol, nicotine, cocaine, and prescription medications, a mixture that proves more dangerous for older people than younger ones.
Building on their previous research, Han and his colleagues analyzed the responses of 17,608 adults aged 50 and older about thei rcannabis use from the 2015-2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Many of those who had consumed cannabis in the past year said that it had been recommended to them by a doctor.
“Most baby boomers who recently used marijuana first used as teens during the 1960s and 1970s,” Joseph Palamar, an associate professor in population health at New York University, and another of the study’s authors, said in a statement. According to the data, more than half of the baby boomers said they had used cannabis at some point in their lives. “This doesn't mean these individuals have been smoking marijuana for all these years, but most current users are by no means new initiates,” Palamar added.